Henry Higgins’ Ways

        My Fair Lady (1964), directed by George Cukor and based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, is, by far, one of my favorite musicals of all time for the obvious attraction between Higgins and Eliza and both of their humorous stubbornness to admit it openly. I know that their attraction is not crystal clear to everyone, but the fact that they despise each other so openly is proof that they are just waiting for the other to admit their feelings. But Higgins, now he is a difficult character to understand completely. This is a man who does not just mistreat Eliza but is also hard on everybody, even his own mother.

        Henry Higgins is played by an actor who I have seen in a few other films previous to this one, Rex Harrison. Ironically, he became the original Dr. Dolittle three years after he did "My Fair Lady." It is ironic because of the co-character is this story, Eliza Doolittle, portrayed by Audrey Hepburn. These two are at each other's throats throughout the entire film, but Higgins is especially hard to deal with since he does not seem to have any feeling for anyone but himself. I think the term to describe a person like Higgins is misanthrope: someone who dislikes and distrusts everyone whom he comes into contact with. This is evident in his behavior in the first scene in the musical when he mocks Eliza's tone and way of speaking as well as insulting her with no regard. There are even a few scenes that he shows some disrespect toward Col. Pickering, played by Wilfrid Hyde-White. During the whole teaching experience, Higgins is constantly rude and disrespectful to Eliza. And, when things are all said and done, he does not even congratulate her.

        I have heard some bizarre love stories before, but this is one of the most strange that I have ever seen. Higgins can never even admit to himself how he feels about Eliza except that he had grown accustomed to seeing her around and knows that he would not be able to deal with it if she left. But he does get a little better at the end when he asked for his slippers. It is his way of showing Eliza his true feelings without changing his actions, just as he has said. I guess there are just some ways of doing things, and then there are the Henry Higgins ways.

Matthew Engle

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