From Flower Girl to Fit for a Ball

        Pygmalion is a story about a lonely London flower girl who comes upon an intellectual man on the streets of London during a late-night summer thunderstorm. The flower girl, who is named Eliza Doolittle, is a very grungy, smart-mouthed woman, whose English is appalling. Eliza is played by Wendy Hiller in the movie Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard in 1938. Hiller fit the part of Eliza Doolittle perfectly in my opinion. She absorbed the true character of Eliza Doolittle from George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion and was able to portray that character effectively in front of the camera. Her character was rough around the edges and very raw. In the beginning of Pygmalion, Hiller’s performance is very quiet and vulnerable, which allows her character to blossom throughout the movie into a beautiful refined woman who was fit for a proper party.

        In the movie My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor in 1964, Audrey Hepburn played the corresponding character that Wendy Hiller depicted in Pygmalion. Although Audrey Hepburn portrayed the same character that Wendy Hiller played, Hepburn did not have the same effect on the audience as Hiller did. After watching Pygmalion in class, I was excited to see how Audrey Hepburn played the character. Needless to say I was quite displeased. Audrey Hepburn’s personality is very prim, proper, and untouched when her character should have been musty, unintelligent, and rude. As I was watching Hiller during Pygmalion, I felt that I was in the movie watching Eliza grow into a woman; however in watching My Fair Lady, I felt Hepburn was struggling to make the audience see her transformation from a poor flower girl to a woman who was fit for a ball.

        Wendy Hiller played the part better than Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. Both movies were enjoyable; however, I felt the transformation was more genuine and true in Wendy Hiller’s performance rather than in Audrey Hepburn’s My Fair Lady.

Brittany Hall