My Fair Lady (1964): Make-up and Hair

Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle (My Fair Lady, 1964) Costumes by Cecil Beaton

“The makeup people, led by the Westmore brothers, did a fine job de-glamorizing Audrey, with [Cecil] Beaton’s cooperation. Her hair had to be filled with an unpleasant substance known as Fuller’s earth—which was quite toxic—and she had to wear a special kind of kohl makeup and a drab foundation to make her look sallow and underfed. For the tests she also had to undergo the blackening of her fingernails and the backs of her hands, and her clothes were deliberately made large so that her frail figure would disappear in them…

Every scene had to be tested in costume again and again because the essence of the movie lay in the gradual transition of Audrey from goose to swan. Beaton stood over her like a Svengali, ordering, in his own words, ‘Strands of her hair to be placed in this direction or that, suggesting more or less eyelash, selecting a brooch or a trinket.’ Every hairstyle had to be argued over and decided upon. Finally, Audrey and Beaton jointly settled on Edwardian bangs like those worn by the famous British music hall star Gertie Millar. Audrey risked having her face look even more square than usual because she wanted total period authenticity, and deeply respected Beaton’s taste and experience…

She had particular fun choosing the right hat for the ascot scene. She and Beaton finally chose one that was replete with cloth poppies and antic bows and would tremble when she jumped up to see the horses.”

–Charles Higham, Audrey: The Life of Audrey Hepburn, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984.


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