Your RDA of Irony

My Fair Ludwig

Audrey Hepburn ‘couldn’t sing and couldn’t act’, says Emma Thompson

She is regarded as one of the Hollywood greats. But Audrey Hepburn couldn’t act, couldn’t sing and was “fantastically twee”, according to Emma Thompson.

 “Twee is whimsy without wit. It’s mimsy-mumsy sweetness without any kind of bite. And that’s not for me. She can’t sing and she can’t really act, I’m afraid. I’m sure she was a delightful woman – and perhaps if I had known her I would have enjoyed her acting more, but I don’t and I didn’t, so that’s all there is to it, really.”
         Reminded that Miss Hepburn had died in 1993, Miss Thompson said, “That spares me the trouble of beating her to death.”  Noting some reporters’ shock, Miss Thompson graciously amended, “I hope she is not burning in Hell.”
        Of course, Thompson conceded that she really was the most talented person to play Eliza Doolittle.  Praising her glorious singing voice, Thompson distributed copies of her recent album “Emma Improves Maria Callas.”  The challenge for Miss Thompson was that she also is the most talented person to play Henry Higgins.  “I really should perform both roles.  The audience deserves no less, and it adds a level of profundity to the play, an insightful brilliance into the psychological and sexual dichotomy of the British Empire.”
        Dismissing Shaw’s original play as “twee, duckywucky, hoitytoity and giddy-kipper”, Thompson explained her improvements to the story.  “A cockney flower girl becomes a lady?  Is that all?  My story begins at Cambridge with young Ludwig Wittgenstein, going to London disguised as a cockney flower girl.  There he gets picked up by Henry Higgins and who, in their bondage relationship, indoctrinates Ludwig into being a proper English lady.  You can see the complications are brilliant and hilarious.  It is what Shaw would have done if he had been intelligent enough for Cambridge.” 
           Her script ends with Henry Higgins, Colonel Pickering and Freddie Eynsford-Hill being machine-gunned by Ludwig at the Somme.  “Don’t you love the irony!” exclaimed Miss Thompson.  “The play ends the same way the Empire did.”
  1. Hal Gordon says:

    Hmmm. So in this version, I presume it’s gay Ludwig (as Henry Higgins’ bondage slave) who sings the new lyrics to the song previously sung by Alfred Doolittle, Eliza’s father: “I’m getting buggered in the morning…”

    • Eugene Finerman says:


      Let’s not forget the other facet to Herr Wittgenstein. So Henry Higgins could sing “I’ve grown accustomed to his race.”


  2. Leah says:

    Well, this brings Emma Thompson several pegs down in my estimation. Has she seen “Roman Holiday”? “Sabrina”? “Love in the Afternoon”? It’s true that Hepburn was not perfect casting for “My Fair Lady” or “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (not enough edge for the first, too much sanity for the second). She was not a character actress but a leading lady usually cast for qualities that *seemed* intrinsic (not unlike Cary Grant, for instance). Since apparently everyone who directed her fell in love with her (in an unrequited way) it is possible that her directors never went to war with her to force out “stretch” performances.

    She was a not-bad untrained-voice type singer, and a pretty good trained dancer (both on display in “Funny Face”). But it’s hard to see her and not be charmed. What occasioned this utterance of Thompson’s, I wonder?

  3. Eugene Finerman says:

    Dear Leah,

    I wish a Professor Higgins would teach Emma Thompson how to be a lady. Thompson’s remarks were obnoxious as well as very “twee”. Audrey Hepburn was enchanting in a number of films: the ones you mentioned as well as “Charade”. Yes, she was not well-cast in “My Fair Lady”; but who does the eminent Emma expect to supplant Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway?

    In her early career, Miss Thompson made a ludicrous ingenue. As the leading lady in “The Tall Guy”, she confused smugness with charm. She seemed an unavoidable onus in the films of her former husband Kenneth Branagh. However, with middle-age and character roles (and a Branagh divorce), she became an appealing presence in a cast.

    But with this outbreak of arrogance, she reminds me why I initially disliked her. That is not the kind of nostalgia she would want to evoke.


  4. Peg Pruitt says:

    Emma Thompson is apparently a legend in her own mind.

  1. There are no trackbacks for this post yet.

Leave a Reply