Pygmalion versus My Fair Lady:
Choice of Actors

     In the two films, Pygmalion, directed in 1938 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, and My Fair Lady, directed in 1964 by George Cukor, two completely different types of actors were chosen to play the original parts of Eliza Doolittle, Henry Higgins, and Colonel Pickering, created in 1913 by George Bernard Shaw.

     In Pygmalion, Wendy Hiller, the woman chosen to play the part of Eliza was a very simple looking girl. Even after she moved in with Higgins (Leslie Howard), her dresses were all very dark and plain. She seemed to be a better common flower girl than Audrey Hepburn was in My Fair Lady. In My Fair Lady, Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) was far from plain. Her dresses ranged in color and made her look absolutely magnificent. Also, Audrey's hair and make up also appeared much softer and prettier than Eliza's in Pygmalion. I felt the casting director had different visions of what Eliza should look like. In Pygmalion, I feel the director wanted the audience to see more of the dramatic change in the flower girl, and he wanted the audience to sympathize with her situation from the beginning to the end. In My Fair Lady, the director picked someone who would make a beautiful girl for Higgins (Rex Harrison) to take to the ball, and not someone who would make the perfect poor flower girl.

     I also noticed that the character of Henry in Pygmalion was played by the young Leslie Howard versus the older Rex Harrison, who played Henry in My Fair Lady. I felt Leslie was a better Henry Higgins. He was very energetic and passionate about his work of phonetics, while Rex played a more laid-back role. Also, Leslie's attitude and sarcasm became much more alive on screen than Rex's. I would have loved to see Leslie Howard and Audrey Hepburn play the roles of Eliza and Higgins. I really feel that they would have sparkled on screen.

     Finally, I noticed that Colonel Pickering, played by Wilfred Hyde-White, was very much older than the Colonel Pickering, depicted by Scott Sunderland, in Pygmalion. In Pygmalion, Colonel Pickering was a man that I could see loving Eliza in a romantic way. He treated her with a different kind of respect and love than Wilfred Hyde-White did in My Fair Lady. Hyde-White's Colonel Pickering was more of a father figure in Eliza's life. The audience never pictured Eliza and Colonel Pickering getting together in My Fair Lady. However, in Pygmalion, the two getting together was suggested several times.

     Overall, I liked Audrey Hepburn as Eliza, Leslie Howard as Henry Higgins, and Wilfred Hyde-White as Colonel Pickering. I think if the casting director had made a musical with these three actors; the musical would have been unbeatable!

Toni L. Crum

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