Fares Better than Pygmalion

         As I watched the 1964 film My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, for the third time, I had to lightly hum the great catchy songs. The director, George Cukor, and the other film makers did a fine job of assigning the roles of Eliza Doolittle to Audrey Hepburn, Professor Henry Higgins to Rex Harrison, and Colonel Hugh Pickering to Wilfrid Hyde-White. These main characters were all wonderful, and I could not imagine any other actress or actors doing their roles. The words by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe were extraordinary. I preferred this version to the 1938 movie Pygmalion, although it was also executed well by directors Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard.

         My favorite song from the musical is "The Rain in Spain." Every time I hear that particular song, I reflect on the scene of the musical where Eliza has finally enunciated words correctly, and all three of the main characters are celebrating her amazing accomplishment. However, in Pygmalion, Wendy Hiller was more dramatic in her acting, when she spoke those first sentences correctly instead of singing them to music, as does Audrey Hepburn, with Marni Nixon's vocal assistance in My Fair Lady.

         Hepburn played a remarkable role as Eliza. Again, the director, George Cukor, along with the artistic director and costume designer, Cecil Beaton, did an astounding duty with designing the fascinating and elaborate costumes and makeup. Hepburn looked marvelous as she grew into the role of a more prominent Eliza. For example, in the horse race, where Eliza met Professor Higgins's mother, Eliza wore a black and white dress with an intricate hat was absolutely breathtaking. Also when she attended the ball, her attire was beautiful with the floor-length dress and hair styled marvelously. In the similar scenes in Pygmalion, Wendy Hiller looked lovely too when she met with Higgins' mother and showed off at the ball. However, she did not look as beautiful or poised as Hepburn.

         The singing was performed well by the principal male leads and Marni Nixon for Audrey Hepburn and went perfect with the musical. The songs helped with the plot and made the film more comedic and dramatic. With the melodies, any viewer can feel the atmosphere and what each character is feeling and what will happen next. The song "I'm Getting Married in the Morning," performed by Stanley Holloway's Alfred Doolittle, is another great example of what the character is feeling. Holloway sings and dances as the town's drunkard on the verge of reluctantly getting married, and he is thrown out of the bar while clumsily staggering along the city streets. His counterpart in Pygmalion, depicted by Wilfred Lawson, was adequately humorous but lacked the broad comic touch that Holloway could portray with his singing and dancing.

         Although Hepburn stole the show with her beautiful appearance and poise on screen, the 1938 movie Pygmalion was also executed well, as it was directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard. Wendy Hiller did a fantastic job with acting her role as Eliza Doolittle. She did out-act Hepburn in some aspects. For example a viewer could see more of a struggle with enunciation and confrontation with Professor Higgins.

         Harrison, as Higgins, was always properly attired even in the morning, was very much put together and a more distinguished professor. However, Professor Higgins as played by Leslie Howard in Pygmalion, was more demanding as compared to Harrison's Higgins in My Fair Lady. Nevertheless, Howard's character was somewhat clueless in the social aspect and not as together. For example Howard's professor was still in his robe at breakfast time.

         Scott Sunderland's role as Colonel George Pickering in Pygmalion was that of a more of a military and serious gentleman, than was Wilfred Hyde-White's Pickering. Also, Hyde-White's, Pickering was more of the mediator and a comic relief between Eliza and Professor Higgins than was Hyde-White's character. For example, when Eliza finally spoke the sentences correctly, Hyde-White was acting like a bull with horns, galloping through Professor Higgins' cape.

         Again My Fair Lady and Pygmalion were well performed, and I very much enjoyed watching and comparing these two great adaptations. However, in conclusion, I am really fonder of the later musical than I am of the earlier movie and the original play because of the great songs and the role of Eliza as performed by Audrey Hepburn.

Kyla DeHay

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