To the Good Actors Go the Stars

         Pygmalion, a play written by George Bernard Shaw, was one of the most interesting stories that I have ever had the chance to read. This story was written in 1913, and I found the characters and the scenes wonderfully realistic of that time period. My Fair Lady, the musical based off Pygmalion, created by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, came out in 1956 and was filmed by George Cukor in 1964. What is more interesting is that I find the musical even better than the original story. It has a better showing of the realistic attitudes of that time, in addition to the better-illustrated relationships. When dealing with the same characters of the stories, with a few differences, Rex Harrison, the stars of My Fair Lady, did better than their counterparts, Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller, in Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard's 1939 movie version, Pygmalion. Indeed the stars in the musical movie well deserved their five stars.

         First of all, the best actress to reflect her character from both the play and musical is not Wendy Hiller in the earlier movie, but instead Audrey Hepburn, who played Eliza Doolittle. Audrey was Eliza in the movie musical My Fair Lady. Audrey is the best to reflect the character of Eliza in Pygmalion and My Fair Lady because she stays true to the original character. She does the the different accents--Cockney and upper class wonderfully and recreates Eliza's actions; the mannerisms are uncanny to the point that you would not know that she was not Eliza. The part where Audrey's Eliza panics over thinking that she might be in trouble in the Portico of St. Paul's was beautiful. She really did a great job especially when she complained: "Poor girl! Hard enough for her to live without being worried and chivied…ought to be ashamed of himself, unmanly coward...I've a right to be here if I like, same as you." She was screaming and howling just as the true Eliza would. Audrey really brought the "love-hate" relationship with Higgins (Rex Harrison) to life. It was wonderfully illustrated in the part where she put Higgins in his place in Mrs. Higgins' (Gladys Cooper) house. She complained: "Oh, you are a tyrant. I can't talk to you: you turn everything against me: I'm always in the wrong. But you know very well all the time that you're nothing but a bully." I give Audrey Hepburn five stars and a well done accolade for her role as Eliza in My Fair Lady.

         Next, the best actor to reflect his character, hands down, would not be Leslie Howard in the earlier cinematic version but instead Rex Harrison, who played Higgins in both the play and the movie My Fair Lady. Putting excitement into the character with his superb acting ability, he reflected the true character of both the play Pygmalion and the musical My Fair Lady. While making Higgins as loud as I thought he would be, he had the eerie ability to depict Higgins' bossiness. He truly made Higgins shine as a fascinating and aggravating individual, as compared to the other actor, Leslie Howard, who played Higgins. Indeed Rex could make me hate Higgins sometimes, which is more than I can say for Leslie Howard.

         Rex Harrison really did a fine job with the opening act, in which he had his confrontation with Eliza at the Portico of St. Paul's in Covent Garden. He really went after Eliza very well especially when he called her a squashed cabbage leaf. He was equally as wonderful when he had to argue with her in Mrs. Higgins' house before she left. I felt him take in really pride and excitement over the conversation they were having, especially when he said, "Of course I do, you little fool. Five minutes ago you were like a millstone around my neck. Now you're a tower of strength: a consort battleship." He really knew how to illustrate his "love-hate" relationship with Eliza omit--(Audrey Hepburn). Although I came to appreciate his strong feelings for Eliza, sometimes I just wanted to slap him because he acted quite arrogant as the true Higgins came off. I give five congratulating stars to Rex in his acting of Higgins.

         In conclusion, Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn did better than their counterparts, Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller, in portraying their characters from the play Pygmalion and the musical My Fair Lady. The stars of My Fair Lady truly did a spectacular job of making their characters come alive. They should be proud of the way they pulled off their roles. They both earned their five stars.

Wendy Copeland

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