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365 Years of Oscar: A Loverly Night for “My Fair Lady” — and Julie Andrews

Fifty-nine years ago, the 37th Academy Awards were hosted, for the 14th time, by Bob Hope.

The Best Picture winner, George Cukor’s My Fair Lady, was an adaptation of a 1956 stage musical of the same name, which was itself based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, which had been nominated for Best Picture in 1938. Audrey Hepburn was controversially not nominated for Best Actress for her starring role as Eliza Doolittle; the unpopularity of her replacing Julie Andrews—who had originated the role on Broadway, and who was seen by producer Jack Warner as having lacked star quality — as well as the revelation that the majority of her singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon (which wasn’t approved by Hepburn herself) were seen as the main reasons for the snub.

This was said to have “split the committee into two camps, pro and con, for and against the two ladies”, and even led to talk of a write-in campaign for Hepburn. Despite her having not been nominated, Hepburn was in attendance at the ceremony, with camera work playing up the tension between the two considerably. Andrews won the Best Actress Oscar. “I’d like to thank Jack Warner for making me available to do Mary Poppins,” Andrews famously quipped from the stage. Meanwhile, rex Harrison took home Best Actor for My Fair Lady.

Other moments of note:

The ceremony saw the first recipient of the Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, William J. Tuttle for 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, albeit as an Honorary Award; it would not become a competitive category until 1981.

This year was the first in which three films received 10 or more nominations (repeated at the 50th, 92nd and 96th Academy Awards), and the only time in Oscar history that three films received 12 or more nominations: Becket and My Fair Lady each received 12, while Mary Poppins received 13.

Also, the five Best Director nominees corresponded to their films in the Best Picture category, for only the second occurrence throughout the era (1944–2008) in Oscar history, where the latter category was limited to five nominees only.

Becket tied the record set by Johnny Belinda for most Oscars losses with 11 (both movies won 1 out of 12 nominations). It was later equalled by The Turning Point in 1977 (0 for 11), The Color Purple in 1985 (0 for 11), and The Power of the Dog in 2021 (1 for 12).

This article is part of a special year-long series of anecdotes, reflections and thoughts about the Academy Awards.