Rex Harrison

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Cleopatra (1963) Review


Weak
It is virtually impossible to separate Cleopatra the movie from Cleopatra the spectacle -- and that's because they are truly and rarely intertwined.

A legend of Hollywood, the 1963 production of Cleopatra has so much curiosity surrounding it I hardly know where to start. It was budgeted at $2 million and eventually cost (up to) $44 million to produce -- close to $300 million in today's dollars. Liz Taylor almost died during the filming and was given a tracheotomy to keep her alive. The production was forced to move from Rome to London and back to Rome again. Two of its stars fell in love (Taylor and Burton) on the set, ruining both of their marriages. 20th Century Fox essentially went bankrupt, leading to the ousting of its chief. The first director was fired after burning $7 million with nothing to show for it. The second director (Mankiewicz) was fired during editing, only to be rehired when no one else could finish the picture. Taylor threw up the first time she saw the finished product. Producer Walter Wanger never worked in Hollywood again. And the original six-hour epic was cut to a little over three.

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My Fair Lady Review


Essential
This is the cinematic version of Alan Jay Lerner's and Frederick Loewe's musical (the longest-running Broadway show of the 1950s), which was based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion (both of which, of course, are still mainstays of theater and high school drama) -- though it has been stripped of its mildly socialistic overtones and turned into a musical romance. Nevertheless, this version of the play/musical is a film classic, which has entertained millions of people since its release.

The plot is familiar: Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) is a professor of linguistics and a pompous, contented bachelor. On a wager with a colleague, Higgins undertakes to teach an illiterate Cockney, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), to speak the King's English. Shaw's message was that, as the human mind is a blank slate, anyone in England could be aristocracy if they only had the right education. Lerner's screenplay dispenses with Shaw's dubious ideology, and instead turns the story into a smart romantic comedy satirizing various levels of British society. And like most musicals, the final message of My Fair Lady is love conquers all -- even misogynistic, pompous blokes like Higgins.

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Unfaithfully Yours Review


Essential
Best suck down a cup of coffee -- or two -- before hitting play on the DVD for Unfaithfully Yours, one of Preston Sturges' best films, and perhaps his most undersung.

Rex Harrison was rarely the go-to guy for comedy, but he's put to incredible use in Unfaithfully as a British composer/conductor in America. His younger wife (Linda Darnell) and legion of fans are fawning, and he's obviously wealthy beyond his dreams, with servants galore. We spend the first half of the film getting to know Harrison's Sir Alfred in typical screwball fashion, but at the midpoint Alfred learns that wife Daphne may be having an affair with Alfred's secretary.

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Doctor Dolittle (1967) Review


Good
As children's films go, Doctor Dolittle is a bit on the ridiculous side, clocking in at 2 1/2 hours long.

As one-joke movies go (veterinarian learns to talk to animals), Dolittle is... well, a bit on the ridiculous side, clocking in at 2 1/2 hours long.

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The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Review


OK
Ghost haunts woman. Ghost helps woman write book. Ghost gets jealous when woman falls for a non-dead man. This 1947 minor classic is quaint and almost absurd by today's standards, but Mrs. Muir still stands as a harmless and cute period piece that nostalgia fans will get a kick out of. Rex Harrison is wildly over the top, considering, you know, he's playing a dead man.
Rex Harrison

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