The musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, Pygmalion, gives a better overall performance of the play than the original film version, filmed in 1938, that was given the same title as Shaw's 1913 play. The performances in My Fair Lady provide a more entertaining portrayal of the play than the film version was able to accomplish.
The script for the 1938 film Pygmalion followed Shaw's original play very closely. However, although the actors in Pygmalion gave amazing performances, their performances were not as lively and moving as the excellent performances given by the actors in My Fair Lady. In Pygmalion, the actors, especially Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller, did not appear to be as devoted to the roles of their respective characters--Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. While their performances were well fit for the characters from the play, their actions were not as energetic and convincing as those given by the actors in My Fair Lady. One of the main reasons why the performances in My Fair Lady were better was because of the music included in some of the scenes. Since the story was a musical, the music was an integral part of the film. Although there were a few musical performances that seemed to have been dragged out too long, the majority of songs gave the production an uplifting feel and lighthearted amusement. One of the most memorable character revealing performances was Eliza's "Just You Wait, 'Henry Higgins.'" During this song, Wendy Hiller gave her character a great deal of energy and liveliness that had not appeared in earlier parts of the film.
In addition, My Fair Lady was more entertaining than Pygmalion because of the few surprises the former gave to the audience. By changing some of the original scenes or adding a few extra to the script, the playwrights and film makers presented the audience with some actions that drifted away from what was originally written in Shaw's play and added to the overall depiction of the characters. The writers of My Fair Lady included a scene where Doolittle, played by Stanley Holloway, comes to Eliza asking her for money, before she goes to Henry Higgins for lessons. Another scene that had not appeared in the original play was the scene where Mrs. Pearce and the other maids are trying to get Eliza to go to bed; however, she is too excited and cannot sleep because the three of them, Higgins, Colonel Pickering, and Eliza, had just finished dancing around the study in celebration of the accomplishments she had made that day.
If given the choice to watch one of these two films again, I would choose My Fair Lady. While Pygmalion was an enjoyable film, it did not contain the entertainment and amusement that My Fair Lady was able to add to the original play.