Entertainment

My Fair Lady – Rex Harrison slammed as “the worst man I’ve ever worked with”

After winning a Tony Award for playing Henry Higgins on Broadway opposite Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison followed up with the Best Actor Oscar for the 1964 film version with Audrey Hepburn. He may have played a charming gentleman on the big screen, but in real life, his female leads, Eliza Doolittle, suffered from his terrible behavior. This included refusing to sing one of the musical’s most famous lines to Andrews during her theatrical performance when she tried to get herself fired from it.

Despite winning a Tony and an Oscar for Higgins, the originally Broadway role only came to Harrison after Noel Coward, Michael Redgrave and George Sanders turned down the role. In fact, he himself admitted that he was not the best singer and Cary Grant, Peter O’Toole, Rock Hudson and Laurence Olivier were approached for the film version before him. Regardless, the My Fair Lady star was completely and utterly convinced that both versions of the musical were about him.

Andre Previn, the music arranger for the 1964 film, later said of the lead: “I felt that any fuss that was made about Audrey or Julie was pointless, because nobody was interested in the girl. They were only interested in him… Rex Harrison, who gave one of the most momentous performances ever, was, and I don’t say this lightly, the most terrible human being I’ve ever worked with. He was charming and funny and a great storyteller but, my God, what he did to people. Rex didn’t like Audrey very much. He was mean to her, not her. That was much more his style.”

When Hepburn was cast, she faced a lot of backlash with many fans exclaiming that the role should have gone to Andrews after her acclaimed role in the stage version.

Although Harrison was sympathetic in public, he kept bringing up how Marni Nixon dubbed the singing voice of her My Fair Lady co-star. He also repeatedly went on about how she didn’t deserve her huge salary and made it seem like Hepburn “snatched” the role of her from Andrews.

The Higgins star was furious behind the scenes that she was only paid $250,000 ($2.4 million today) compared to Hepburn’s $1 million (almost $10 million). He later warmed to her on set, but only because she was getting all the bad press for being dubbed her, which allowed him to control the production.

By comparison, Andrews fought more during her run with him on Broadway in 1956 and in the West End two years later.

READ MORE: Dame Julie Andrews’ My Fair Lady snub led to actress’s first Oscar

Andrews once reportedly used profanity when summing up his time with Harrison in the musical. And he once stormed out of the theater after a performance yelling, “If that bitch is still here Monday, I quit the show!”

In fact, their feud turned so bad that the Higgins star refused to sing the famous line “I’ve gotten used to your face” during the play’s run.

Andrews and Hepburn weren’t the only ones who had terrible experiences with Harrison, Patrick Macnee saying: “He was one of the five most unpleasant men you ever met.” Charlton Heston called him “prickly” and Roddy McDowell said, “He was emotionally unstable, like a riotous child. You always had to approach him with a fire hose. He was an exquisitely flawless actor but basically hysterical and unscrupulous to his fellow actors.”



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