Audrey Hepburn-Julie Andrews 'My Fair Lady': Biggest Oscar Snubs

Audrey Hepburn My Fair LadyGreat singing in the clip above, huh? Well, that's probably why Audrey Hepburn didn't get a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for My Fair Lady. [See previous “Biggest Oscar Snubs” piece: Steven Spielberg Shocked When Not Oscar Nominated for JAWS.]

Audrey Hepburn's landing the role of Eliza Doolittle in Warner Bros.' 1964 film version of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's My Fair Lady sparked a major outcry because many were adamant that Eliza belonged to Julie Andrews, who had played it onstage. Jack Warner, however, felt that Andrews' stage-star wattage wouldn't necessarily translate into movie-star box office drawing power.

Understandably, Warner believed his $17-million (approx. $120 million today) megaproject needed a top Hollywood star to attract lots of butts to fill lots of movie-theater seats, especially considering that Rex Harrison (instead of Warner's first choice, Cary Grant), who had played the role of Prof. Henry Higgins onstage, was hardly a major box office draw.

“The criticism heaped upon Jack Warner for bypassing Julie,” wrote columnist Sheilah Graham, “has been like nothing I can remember in my years of reporting.” Time magazine, for one, remarked, “There is an evil and rampantly lunatic force at loose in the world and it must be destroyed.” Andrews, for her part, told reporters, “I can't wait to see it. I know I'll cry so hard I'll blot my eyes out.”

Audrey Hepburn was reportedly hurt by the naysayers. Adding insult to injury, her voice – much to Hepburn's dismay – was deemed below par. Enter Marni Nixon to provide Eliza's singing. And that's the voice you hear in the clip above.

Rubbing salt on the insulted injury, at the time of the Oscar 1964 announcements Hepburn was left nominationless despite the fact that My Fair Lady – which turned out to be a major box office hit – received 12 nods, including Best Picture, Best Director (George Cukor), Best Actor (Harrison), Best Supporting Actor (Stanley Holloway), and Best Supporting Actress (Gladys Cooper).

Yet, despite much carping about the dubbing, Hepburn's reviews had been generally positive. “The happiest thing about [My Fair Lady],” wrote Bosley Crowther in the New York Times, “is that Audrey Hepburn superbly justifies the decision of Jack Warner to get her to play the title role.”

Julie Andrews, nominated for Disney's blockbuster Mary Poppins (photo) – the year's box office champ – concurred: “I think Audrey should have been nominated. I'm very sorry she wasn't.”

It gets worse: Squeezing liquid hot pepper on Hepburn's salted, insulted injury, the Academy gave My Fair Lady eight Oscars and chose none other than Julie Andrews as the Best Actress of the year.

Years later, Audrey Hepburn said she had initially refused the role of Eliza, telling Warner Bros. that it should go to Andrews. Hepburn eventually relented when she was told that the role would then go to another movie star. Other sources, however, claim that Hepburn wanted Eliza even before it was offered her.

Audrey Hepburn received a total of five Oscar nominations: William Wyler's Roman Holiday (1953), Billy Wilder's Sabrina (1954), Fred Zinnemann's The Nun's Story (1959), Blake Edwards' Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), and Terence Young's Wait Until Dark (1967). She won for Roman Holiday. Julie Andrews, for her part, would receive two other Oscar nods: for Robert Wise's The Sound of Music (1965), an even bigger hit than Mary Poppins, and for another Blake Edwards effort, the gender-bending comedy musical Victor Victoria (1982).

And here are five performers who didn't have any trouble getting Oscar nominations despite having had their singing voices dubbed: Deborah Kerr (courtesy of Marni Nixon) for The King and I (1956), Peggy Wood for The Sound of Music (1965), Jessica Lange for Sweet Dreams (1985), Penélope Cruz for Volver (2006), and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose.

Julie Andrews quotes: Inside Oscar by Mason Wiley and Damien Bona.

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16 Comments to Audrey Hepburn-Julie Andrews 'My Fair Lady': Biggest Oscar Snubs

  1. Jil

    Well, friends. Julie Andrews won. That will never change.

  2. Invidious

    Julie's Oscar was well-deserved and Audrey's limited talent really shows when you compare her performance with what we've seen of Julie's. Better acting, better dancing and let's not insult Julie by even attempting to compare their voices.

    Audrey was an elegant lady and a good actor. Julie Andrews was a legitimate triple threat who outshone Audrey in every way a performer can be.

  3. Alan

    One of the most intensely annoying “controversies” ever.

    Let's just start by pointing out that the lovely Audrey sang “Moon River” better than any one else, she also did her own singing in The Fred Astaire co-starring musical “Funny Face”. What she didn't have was the kind of Soprano used in My Fair Lady.
    Anyone who has seen the clips of Julie Andrews singing/ performing My Fair Lady and Camelot, will be able to acknowledge her singing but the performance is not “Legendary” or particularly enthralling. She was an unknown cinema personality, and her short lived Movie Star career indicates that although talented , she was a limited performer. ( I personally think her best performance on film was in the failure “Star”.

    Audrey was a huge star at the time and her performance as Eliza is luminous and enchanting, who could wish for a more lovely Eliza?

    Why is there no controversy about how Julie Andrews was cast in The Sound of Music? She didn't originate the part Mary Martin did. She was also the originator of the Nelly Forbush character in South Pacific- she didn't get that either Mitzi Gaynor did. She didn't get it because she was not a film “Name', and while good on stage was not a cinematic “Star' as others are not. Ethel Merman, Patti Lupone, Elaine Page, Gwen Verdon, all have had great success on stage that seldom was repeated on film. BECAUSE they are different mediums.

    What about the lovely and talented Rita Hayworth, she had a whole career in musicals and never sang a note of her own songs, Deborah Kerr was dubbed in The King and I, ( the part originated by Getrude Lawrence- another no-cinematic name). NAtalie Wood sang ok in Athe under appreciated “Inside Daisy Clover” but did not have the “right ” voice for “West Side Story'.

    Rex Harrison was able to “sing” his role because he was not required to sing in the generally accepted sense of the word.

    In the movie of “Camelot” there is a montage of romantic shots of the lovers while the song “If Ever I would Leave You', at one point there is a heart stopping beautiful shot of the lovely Vannessa Redgrave captured in a doorway shrouded by glowing lights an her hair, sorry but Ms Andrews talented as she is is well cast as a Nun or a governess but not as a great romantic beauty.

    Audrey's performance in My Fair Lady is lovely, read Bosley Crowther.s review in the New York Times, all these years of denigrating it, are shameful.

  4. Stephen reeder

    It's like a hoax a fraud when you get to see it in today's time vs.real time and know Hollywood
    Is swept away by the moods swings of the power that is like a storm the blows through the award voter mind the award should have gone to Audrey Hepburn / MY FAIR LADY:

  5. Bart van Os

    My fair lady got many oscars in 1965! It was in the top 10 best movies of 1964 and a9165! It was running in cinema for more than 2 years!

  6. Waldemar Lopes

    Eliza Doolittle, not “Dolittle'. So sorry about that - lack of editing.

  7. Waldemar Lopes

    The lovely Audrey Hepburn, whom I love, and who was perfect in Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany's, did not give the performance of the year in My Fair Lady, as far as the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the box office are concerned. That is easy to understand, and no rules are needed to be taken into consideration when a star's speaking voice does not match her singing voice in a musical. How well did Deborah Kerr and Natalie Wood learn that - alas, their singing voice was Marni Nixon's - and it could be easily recognized in a few seconds. Therefore, Audrey was at least the third star with ”that voice” in a Hollywood musical. Besides, at the age of 35, Audrey was no flower girl, but a woman, although she always looked beautiful and elegant. And let's be fair and classy when talking about two fair ladies: Julie looks just gorgeous, radiant and charming in Poppins - a camel is something that only comes to my mind when I think of. hmm, Lawrence of Arabia. And to add to the show, Audrey was not even British, as the role of Eliza Dolittle demanded: she was born in Belgium, and her difficulty speaking cockney convincingly was evident. On the other hand, Julie's performance in the Disney classic is iconic; it overshadowed Audrey's, and that is a fact, not something that a Julie Andrews fanatic dreams of. Recently, Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson talked about the magic of her performance (”Saving Mr. Banks” premiere on youtube), and that's why her Oscar is so much deserved and that is also what made Andrews an instant musical icon, which was confirmed in ”The Sound of Music” after a year or so . Ironically, Audrey and Julie instantly became such good friends; Audrey, always nice, told the adorable Julie, ”You should have done MFL, Julie, but I didn't have the guts to turn it down”.

  8. Dan

    Julie Andrews' fanatics should get a life. Julie got Mary Poppins and won an (undeserved) Oscar for it. Audrey gave the performance of the year in My Fair Lady and should have won it. There's no way Julie could have been as graceful or as elegant as the lady. She simply looks like a camel next to Hepburn. There's no rule that says you have to sing to win an Oscar. That's absolute bull.

  9. Pat

    Actually Andrews and Hepburn did compete for best actress in the Golden Globe Awards (Andrews won). That being said however I'm still glad Hepburn got the role of Eliza. I don't care much for Jack Warner whom I think was very dishonest with Hepburn. I believe he did tell her that her own voice would be used in the singing and backed off afterwords. I seem to recall that Clint Eastwood also had issues with Warner Bros. Of course with his kind of status he didn't have to put up with things like that.

  10. Waldemar Lopes

    Just like the writer, I do love Audrey Hepburn, but the only thing that is positive about her in My Fair Lady is that she really looks beautiful and elegant as a lady. In the first part of the film, she is never convincing as a poor flower girl. To make things worse, her cockney is embarrassing. The sweet Audrey does not have a flair for comedy, and that is evident in the scenes in which Eliza is learning to speak English perfectly. Moreover, at the age of 35, she was too old for the part, a girl in her twenties. As she couldn't sing at all, what was she thinking when she accepted a part that was conceived for a soprano? Sadly, she did not deserve a nomination at all, and the Academy simply did justice. Julie Andrews, on the other hand, would have been practically perfect in every way, once she had all the qualifications to be the leading lady of the musical. She originated the role of Eliza on Broadway and played it for three and a half years; had a glorious voice, great timing for comedy and was abolutely LOVERLY. No wonder she got the Oscar for Mary Poppins, which was a much, much bigger hit than MFL (to Jack Warner's dismay). She was destined to be a star, and no matter which film she starred, the much deserved award would be hers anyway. I wonder why Sheilah Graham, being such an experienced professional, was so shocked about the hate showbusiness people felt for Jack Warner. He simply got what he deserved. And I can hear Julie singing to him, after winning her Oscar: “I can do without you!”

  11. Emma

    To me, Julie Andrews IS Eliza. She acted it better than Audrey, and she sang it better than Marni. Plus, she performed on stage, which is much harder (trust me, I know). To top it all off, her cockney was MUCH better.

  12. Lana

    Hepburn is a terrible overrated actress. She totally killed MFL. Unforgivable. Julie Andrews is Eliza Doolitle. The one and only.

  13. Andre

    True. Thanks, Eduardo. I'll add Cotillard to the text.

  14. Eduardo

    Marion Cotillard won the oscar portaying Edith Piaf and doing mimic of her voice

  15. Natasha

    Audrey was perfect as Eliza Doolitle, I'm glad she was cast. I also love Julie Andrews but I think Audrey's Eliza is much better.

  16. John

    Yeah, never mind the fact that at 35 Hepburn was FAR too old for the part and her “Cockney” accent was terrible. Since the chain smoking Hepburn couldn't sing at all she should have stuck to acting. Warner was an idiot not to cast Julie Andrews. The 2010 remake will be far better in every way.