A Classic for All Ages

     Some stories are written with such quality that they can be rewritten and re-modeled to fit every time period. Jane Austen's Emma would be an example of this type of story. Another example is Pygmalion, by written by George Bernard Shaw in 1913. It has such a basic; good plot that it can be made into many variations with a different twist on each. A couple of variations are My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukon in 1964, and Pretty Woman, directed by Garry Marshall in 1990.

     Pygmalion is a story about a speech professor, Dr. Higgins and Colonel Pickering, a scholar, author of Spoken Sanscrit, who take in a Cockney flower girl, Eliza, to teach her to be a lady. The play reveals all the work they undergo and the final result. It also shows how hurt the young woman is when she is looked at as just a finished project instead of a person with feelings when they are done. My Fair Lady follows along with the same theme and many of the same lines. The variation is mainly in putting it to music. There are some other differences as well. For instance, Eliza, played by Audrey Hepburn, returns to Dr. Higgins, depicted by Rex Harrison, in the end.

     One major variation of this movie is Pretty Woman. The theme remains the same, but the characters are changed drastically. In order to accommodate a new era, the characters are made more modern, and she is not purposely taught from the beginning to become a lady. In My Fair Lady, Higgins and Pickering set out to make Eliza a lady and even placed a bet on it. In Pretty Woman, Edward Lewis, portrayed by Richard Gere, comes across Vivian, played by Julia Roberts, accidentally and ends up taking her in for a short time. He did not originally set out to make Vivian a lady, but the end result was the same-- as it was for Eliza. Vivian, who is the latter-day variation of Eliza, is a hooker because of necessity for money. Edward, who is the more modern variation of Higgins, is a millionaire businessman.

     Edward stumbles upon Vivian in the street much the same way Higgins finds Eliza on the street. He asks her to show him to his hotel because he is unfamiliar with the area. When they arrive, he decides to invite her up because he has begun to like her. After they spend some time together, he decides he would like to have her stay the week with him so he will have a date for some events he needs to attend. Then, he sends her off to get new clothes, just as Higgins did for Eliza, to prepare her for an important dinner engagement. She does not quite fit in on Rodeo Drive, so she requires assistance from the hotel manager. He serves the function of Colonel Pickering by teaching her some of the finer points of how to behave in society. He treats her as a lady after he has become acquainted with her. Over the course of the movie, she learns new qualities of being ladylike from both the hotel manager and Edward.

     By the end of the movie, she has become too refined and upscale to return to the streets. She also does not wish to be put up in a condo by Edward for him to stop in to visit with her as he pleases. Once she experiences the treatment of being a lady, she refuses to sell her body or be treated as less than number one again. After she explains her feelings to Edward and he refuses to give her more than he had previously offered, she leaves to go to college. The movie ends with Edward coming up in his limousine with flowers to give her the fairy tale she wanted. In Pygmalion, Eliza refuses to play Higgins' games any longer and goes to Freddy, who really loves her. However, in My Fair Lady, she realizes that Higgins does care for her more than he has let on and will now treat her better so she also returns to him.

     Obviously the plots of the two movies vary in certain ways. In My Fair Lady, she takes Higgins back instead of leaving him like in Pygmalion. In Pretty Woman, the plot is about a different type of character all around, and she learns how to be a lady in a different way as well. However, the same theme revolves in both. It is a perfect example of how a good general theme in a story can be passed along through the ages.

Allison Groner

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