When I saw the syllabus at the beginning of the semester and noticed we would be reading George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion and its 1956 adaptation by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, My Fair Lady, I was more than excited. Since seeing My Fair Lady live in London last summer, I have been a little on the obsessed side with it. Every time I see the 1964 film version, directed by George Cukor, on television, I stop everything I am doing to watch it. With this love of the play and movie, it is no wonder My Fair Lady is my favorite film-literature combination.
Although I have seen a live rendition of My Fair Lady and have seen the Audrey Hepburn version of the film more times now than I care to remember, I had never read the play until we read it in class. I assumed I would enjoy reading Alan Jay Lerner's adaptation of My Fair Lady more than George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion because I enjoy the play and film so much. After reading both, however, I learned I was terribly mistaken. George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion was my favorite text all semester.
Pygmalion and My Fair Lady are both amazing plays to read, but they absolutely become magical on stage and screen. I want to stand up and cheer in My Fair Lady when Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) is the belle of the ball. It makes everything just seem okay after all the hard work she does to succeed at becoming a proper young woman. I think I would have absolutely cried if she had not been the most beautiful person there.
This is not the only instance of my emotions getting wrapped up in the film. At the very end of the film when Higgins (Rex Harrison) listens to Eliza's voice via the phonograph and she comes into the room to finish her own sentence, I wanted to strangle Higgins. Instead of professing his undying love to Eliza, he asks her where his slippers are. In the play and the film, she seems to understand that this means he wants her to be part of his life, but it still makes me annoyed. All it would take to satisfy me would be a simple, "I have feelings for you," "I love you," or even an excited "Oh!" But being true to the play, Higgins does not do that in the film. I just have to disregard what Higgins really says and insert what I want to hear. Is this a sign of a huge obsession with a film?
With my love of My Fair Lady, I am probably one of the most critical people of its deficient version. I cannot say, however, that I do not like any of the versions I have seen or read. Of course the live play will always be my favorite because it is my first experience with the story, and it was a wonderful production. Next, though, I would have to say that the film would be my second favorite version. I am somewhat obsessed with Audrey Hepburn also, so this may have a little to do with the fact. But, also, I love the musical numbers in the film, such as "Poor Professor Higgins," that I do not hear while reading. Next comes Shaw's Pygmalion because I like Shaw's writing style and the simplicity of the story. I did enjoy reading My Fair Lady; but, if I want to know the story in that case, I would rather see the film.
I never dreamt I could like four different version of the same story this much. I will not be afraid anymore of reading a story based on another or watch two versions of the same film. If I had learned nothing else this semester, I believe that is something wonderful to walk away with.