The Disney org, never one to miss an opportunity for cross-promotions, is using this docu as a way of building anticipation for the Disney Channel’s debut of the restored, letterbox version of the 1964 musical. But the smart, informative hour goes beyond hype to make a strong, sometimes startling, statement about film preservation.
Writer and director Suzie Galler, co-scripter Roy McDonald and the producers cover a lot of territory, from Shaw’s creation of “Pygmalion” through the birth of the ’56 Broadway musical to the making and opening of the film, which George Cukor directed under Jack Warner’s supervision.
Brief, interesting insights are provided by a group that includes Andrew Lloyd Webber; Martin Scorsese; a charmingly self-deprecating Julie Andrews; post-production supervisor Rudy Fehr and Daily Variety senior columnist Army Archerd.
But, at every step of the way, the docu returns to its main theme: the disaster that was averted when the film’s deterioration in vaults was discovered.
The heroes are Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz, who spearheaded the six-month, $ 600,000 renovation. Their team clearly explains to viewers their digital corrections, audio remastering and color timing, as the hour constantly points up the fragility of film.
Among the discoveries were audio tracks of Audrey Hepburn singing “Show Me” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” and one of the pleasures of the docu is the matching of Hepburn footage with her own voice.
Though Hepburn would have needed occasional help on the difficult songs, her “Loverly” in particular is totally winning — respectably sung and so well acted it’s an improvement over the disembodied effect of Marni Nixon’s purer voice.
With clips of the film, the docu — which debuted on the pic’s laserdisc release last year, and makes its TV debut here — successfully works as audience bait, but goes beyond that.
Narrator Jeremy Brett points out that 50% of all films have disappeared. “Loverly” is consumer-oriented, and falls short of making an outright plea for studios to step up preservation. But as technicians spell out the intricate work and high costs involved, it raises questions.
If it weren’t for revenue possibilities from new technologies like laserdisc and homevid, would these films be restored? And if a best-pic winner is allowed to deteriorate in only 30 years, what is the fate of the also-rans?