Hepburn versus Hiller–Battle of the Elizas

        Audrey Hepburn is known to this day as the epitome of cutesy glamour in films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s. When the woman who will eternally be recognized as Holly Golightly tries to play a poor Cockney flower girl named Eliza Doolittle in 1964’s My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor, it does not exactly work as planned. Hepburn often seems strained to play out of her comfort zone in that role, and it makes her portrayal of Eliza much less believable than Wendy Hiller’s performance in 1938’s Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard. Hiller’s quiet beauty is apparent from the start and slowly builds up to create a more realistic transformation. Both movies are very interesting, but the leading ladies take them in two different directions.

        It might be because Wendy Hiller is a lesser known actress to this day, but she seemed rougher around the edges at the start of her film than Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn is polished and dainty, while Hiller scratches and screams her way through the beginning of the movie. Hiller embodied Eliza through that role, and the chemistry between Eliza and Higgins (played by the great Leslie Howard) was believable. One felt her pain and saw the growth she made and what she really went through, without all the song and dance (literally).

        Hepburn’s version seemed light and airy, touching on but mostly skimming over the difficulties that Eliza faced with both her personal betterment and her love life. Every Audrey Hepburn movie must be prim and proper and have a happy ending of sorts, and this movie is not excluded from that thought. She lip-synced and danced through the lines, taking the story away from the more realistic point of view of Pygmalion. In the case of Hepburn vs. Hiller, Hiller takes away the grand prize; but both movies are enjoyable and very much worth watching.

Katie Locke