The title of this song could well be "Why Can't The English Learn To Speak?", and it is one of the more memorable numbers from a musical which produced more than its fair share of durable songs. My Fair Lady
was based on the George Bernard Shaw classic Pygmalion
, and like the rest of the score, this song has music by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, who also wrote the book.
The show hit Broadway in 1956, and was filmed in 1964, wherein "Why Can't The English?" is sung in a street scene by Rex Harrison in the role of Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics who has the remarkable ability to tell where a person was born sometimes within a street or two simply by listening to his - or in this case her - voice. [The character of Higgins is actually based on a real academic, Henry Sweet (1845-1912)].
In this somewhat angry song, Cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle, who is portrayed by Audrey Hepburn, is on the receiving end.
Harrison also played Higgins in the original stage production, a role that was offered in the first instance to Noël Coward; Harrison took the part on Coward's recommendation; although he plays Higgins extraordinarily well, this was the sort of character Coward was born to play, and is surely one of the greatest castings never to have happened. The original Eliza was played by a youthful Julie Andrews, who went on to star in the smash hit The Sound Of Music
Alexander Baron - London, England