George Cukor's 1964 musical, My Fair Lady, adapted for film by Alan Jay Lerner and Frderick Loewe from their 1956 stage production and starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, is regarded by many people as a classic. I recently viewed My Fair Lady for the second time, though, as well as seeing Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard's 1938 film Pygmalion, both of which were based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion. Having now seen both, I must say that on the whole, I was much more impressed with Pygmalion. The biggest fault I find with My Fair Lady is its length--it draws the story, making it last too long.
Asquith and Howard's Pygmalion runs for 1 hour and 25 minutes, while Cukor's My Fair Lady doubles this running time, so that it is nearly 3 hours long. Now, this might be okay if there were three hours worth of material in the film. However, the fact is that the only thing that really changes between the films in terms of plot, is that we get more of Alfred P. Doolittle's (Eliza's father played by Stanley Holloway) in My Fair Lady. There are other minor changes, like the disappearance of Freddy's sister, and the change from originally "showing Eliza off" at the racetracks in My Fair Lady instead of at the home of Higgins' mother in Pygmalion, with Wendy Hiller as Eliza and Marie Lohr as Mrs. Higgins. None of these has much effect on the time that it would take to show the movie.
The main element that makes My Fair Lady take so much more time is the addition of the songs. Now I feel it necessary to state that I do not have any particular aversion to musicals; and, in fact, there are some musicals that I enjoy watching. My Fair Lady is not one of them. Many of these songs have become quite well-known, such as: "The Rain in Spain," "I Could Have Danced All Night," "On the Street Where You Live," "I'm Getting Married in the Morning," "With a Little Bit of Luck," and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." It is not to say that I did not enjoy a few of these songs; I just did not feel that the songs added enough to the movie to make it worth the extra hour and a half.