Famous Transitions

         There are numerous actors that are well known for realistic transformations in films. I want to focus on two major actors that do very well portraying characters. First, I would like to cover Marlon Brando, who plays Stanley Kowalski in Elia Kazan's 1951 adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. Second, I want to focus on Audrey Hepburn, who plays Eliza Doolittle in George Cukor's 1964 version of My Fair Lady. These two films are both adapted from famous plays. Streetcar is an original play by Tennessee Williams, written in 1947. My Fair Lady is adapted from George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion.

         Marlon Brando has to play a tough role in his movie. Stanley is a rough, rude, and rotten man. He has no manners and is far too aggressive toward people, especially women. Brando had to toughen up for this role. One cannot just walk onto a movie set and push women around or throw objects. As an actor, he had to get into the mean mindset of his character. At times he has to act like a drunken fool. Not everyone has the ability to do some of the things he does. I believe Stanley is rougher and more domineering in the film than in the play. It is shocking to read of the mental and physical abuse, but it is even more shocking to see it. Marlon Brando does a good job transforming himself from a normal, everyday man into an aggressive and beastly male.

         Audrey Hepburn does a wonderful job playing Eliza Doolittle. She transforms herself more than once in this classic movie. Her first transformation is from Audrey to Eliza the flower girl. Audrey Hepburn has to disguise her beauty when she is made up as the poor, homely flower girl. Not only is her physical appearance flawed, but also is her accent. Hepburn has to use a most annoying accent for the majority of the film. When reading the accent in the book, I found it just does not completely make sense; but the accent makes sense onscreen and gives me a headache. I can only imagine how hard it was for her to use this accent during the making of the movie. Her second transformation is one that goes from a flower girl to a beautiful princess. This change is probably much easier to fulfill. Hepburn is naturally beautiful and poised, so the princess is easier to portray. These two different changes ensure Audrey Hepburn's credentials. She is versatile just like Marlon Brando.

         These two transformations are similar to newer movies that are now popular. Brando's transformation is somewhat similar to, unfortunately, many modern movies. There are so many that have been produced wherein the husband is abusive to his wife; this is why I do not want to settle on just one film. However, for Hepburn, the role of Eliza is very similar to Vivian (Julia Roberts) in the 1990 film Pretty Woman. Eliza is taken from the streets and made into a rich (in appearance) princess. Vivian is a prostitute who is picked up by a genuine and well-to-do business man, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere). He buys her clothes, gets her lessons in manners, and exposes her to the high life, which in turn makes her a more sophisticated woman.

         Overall, Stanley and Eliza are unique characters who can only be played by talented and versatile actors. Brando and Hepburn do wonderfully with their transitions from normal to extreme characters. It was a pleasure reading and watching these characters in their famous works.

Lauren Cline

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