Pygmalion or My Fair Lady? As You Like It

Pygmalion: A story of radical change, a commentary on the social norms, and a report on the psyche of the lower and upper crusts of British society.

My Fair Lady: A whimsical musical about a Cockney flower girl turned princess by a stubborn phonetics professor with a warmish heart.

        Could one believe that the latter was adapted from the former? It is difficult to tell if one were to watch each of them separately. My Fair Lady focuses on spectacle, while Pygmalions primary focus is the development and exposition of the plot and characters. So which is the princess of the ball? The answer to the previous question: Whichever you prefer. One cannot think of these films in the same way, or one adapted from the other. They are their own pillars in the pantheon of the golden days of cinema.

        If one likes a deep story with in-depth character development, watch Pygmalion. The 1938 adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, is more true to the play. It provides a great story with a tidy ending, great characters played by tremendous actors, and a bittersweet aftertaste when one presses the stop button. The relationship between Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) and Dr. Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard) is stretched and contorted. One feels twisted and contorted watching the tutelage of Doolittle, and it is a joy to watch.

        However, if one prefers a spectacle that unfolds with characters wrapped in fantasy, watch My Fair Lady , directed in 1964 by George Cukor. The characters are lofty and unbelievable, but are so much fun to watch. The music adds a new dimension to the play, even though some of the singing is not true to the body it projects. Though Audrey Hepburn (Doolittle) and did sing some of her own parts, Marni Nixon did most of the vocal legwork.

        So which adaptation outshines the other? Neither outshines, but both shine on their own. Pygmalion or My Fair Lady? One must answer with one of the Shakespeare greats: As You Like It. Or What You Will.

Joseph Chad Bowlin