Pygmalion and My Fair Lady: Realistic versus Elaborate

         The differences between Pygmalion, the 1938 film, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, and My Fair Lady, the 1964 film, directed by George Cukor, both of which are based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 Pygmalion, are few but powerful.

         Although the director and costume crew tried to make Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady look like the character Eliza Doolittle, I do not think she achieved the transformation. Although she played the character well, she would have never been “Dirty” enough to be as if she were impoverished. In Pygmalion the actress, Wendy Hiller, looked more the part, especially before her transformation. I do not know if it was so because the movie was in black in white but to me she (the actress) seemed to portray the earlier Eliza better. The costumes in My Fair Lady were more exquisite than they were in the first movie, especially towards the end. Audrey Hepburn looked the part as a cleaned up Eliza but not Eliza before the transformation.

         I think that the settings in My Fair Lady were more elaborate than those in the movie Pygmalion. I think in this example the art direction of Cecil Beaton surpassed my expectations. Indeed, the sets in My Fair Lady were absolutely beautiful; but they were more what I would call “showbiz” than in Pygmalion, with the sets more down to earth. For example, when Eliza is in the shadow o the church, the set was far more grungy in Pygmalion than it was in My Fair Lady. One can definitely tell that the sets of this movie were a major endeavor of the studio.

         Pygmalion was a far more realistic film than My Fair Lady because of the leading actress, the costumes, and the settings.

Samantha Andersson

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