Fresh Produce

  • Joseph Roach
Part of the Signs of Race book series (SOR)


The scene is unforgettable, at least to any devotee of movie musicals of my generation. Beneath the severity of the Tuscan portico of Inigo Jones’s St. Paul’s Church in London’s Covent Garden, Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins, arguing on behalf of classical order in building as well as in speaking, berates a copiously weeping Eliza Doolittle, hydraulically enacted by Audrey Hepburn: “You squashed cabbage leaf, you disgrace to the noble architecture of these columns, you incarnate insult to the English language.”1 Jay Lerner’s book for My Fair Lady follows the dialogue of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion closely, especially in the introduction of the flower girl Eliza Doolittle as an example of human refuse. The flowers she has been selling from her basket are purported to be fresh. She is not. Only as “clean as she can afford to be,” foul of odor and of speech, she is but one inmate among many, a “pris’ner of the gutters” serving time in the streets of Edwardian London (My Fair Lady, 20, 27). With his characteristically enthusiastic insensitivity, Shaw’s Professor Higgins waxes eloquent on the vividness of her abjection: “Oh it’s a fine life, the life of the gutter. It’s real: it’s warm: it’s violent: you can feel it through the thickest skin: you can taste it and smell it without any training or any work.”2


Commercial Real Estate Time Port Atlantic World Chattel Slavery Human Refuse 
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Copyright information

© Philip D. Beidler and Gary Taylor 2005

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  • Joseph Roach

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