High Cost Does not Mean High Quality

     There are many differences in the 1938 film Pygmalion and 1964 musical My Fair Lady. Both productions are based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, Pygmalion. The major differences in these two films is that one is an elaborate musical, and the other is a simple black and white movie, but it is the acting which is another major difference that sold this viewer on the more simple 1938 film Pygmalion.

     Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith, stars Leslie Howard as the phonetics professor Henry Higgins and Hiller as Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle. Leslie Howard is very believable in the role as the brilliant professor. However, Howard adds a lot more than just the right look to the part. His mannerisms, dry British humor, as well as the expressions on his face add to his ability to play this role to perfection. There is no wonder why he was chosen a year later to play the general Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind.

     Wendy Hiller also does a wonderful job in this production. She really looks as if she could be a poor "guttersnipe." Hiller is rather plain looking, so it is not hard to believe that she is a flower girl who wants to be transformed into a lady. Hiller then does a wonderful job with the transformation of Eliza. She really shows the viewer the transformation as it happens, the vocabulary developing, her beauty flowering, and self-pride developing are just a few examples of how we see Hiller's Eliza develop.

     On the other hand, My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor, is less realistic. This is due to several reasons. One is that this film is a musical, and musicals are not realistic anyway. Another is due to the choice of actors.

     Rex Harrison plays Henry Higgins. He is somewhat believable, but something does not click. He is rude, as Higgins is supposed to be; but Harrison takes it too far. He seems too loud and not really intelligent enough to pull off the role of Higgins. Harrison also does not sing his parts; he speaks them in a singing manner which is rather unnerving for the viewer.

     Audrey Hepburn plays Eliza. Hepburn is a beautiful lady, but she does not make a convincing Cockney flower girl. My guess is that this film needed a big name to go with its big budget, so she was a perfect choice. I was upset to learn that Hepburn's singing voice was not in this movie; it was the voice of Marni Nixon. She does wonderful as the "lady" Eliza, but the "guttersnipe" was too much of a stretch.

     So, even though the expensive set of My Fair Lady might be more pleasing to the eye than the black-and-white set of Pygmalion, the acting was not. Pygmalion was much more realistic, so it proves that, just because a movie costs more to make, it does not mean that it is higher quality, especially where the acting is concerned.

April Russell

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