A Kinder, Gentler Higgins

         In the two films based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard's 1938 Pygmalion and George Cukor's 1964 My Fair Lady, there were many similarities and differences. For example, the actors that played Professor Higgins, Leslie Howard and Rex Harrison, were much different from each other in the two films.  I personally preferred Rex Harrison's kinder, gentler interpretation in My Fair Lady.

         In the film, Pygmalion, Leslie Howard's Higgins was more cocky and snooty. The way he treated everyone around him was horrible. Even though the lines for the character were already cocky and snooty in their manner, the actor made them more real and vivid in his manner. He was not as caring and did not show as much emotion as one would think when Eliza (Wendy Hiller) came to the end of her time with Prof. Higgins. He did notshow as much remorse in his voice or manner when she came back to him and offered his slippers back to him.

        In contrast, My Fair Lady, Rex Hararison's Higgins was much more caring and softer than the other one even though he had to speak essentially the same dialog as did Leslie Howard. Even though, again, the same style of dialog came with the characterization that the actor had to play for the part.  When it came for Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) to come back to Prof. Higgins in the end and to give him back his slipper, he was a lot more sympathetic and compassionate in his manner and voice towards her. Despite the lines, one could tell that he really cared for her and that she really might have stayed with him rather than going off with Freddy (Jeremy Brett).

         Because I preferred Rex Harrison's Professor Higgins to Leslie Howard's portrayal, I preferred My Fair Lady to Pygmalion.

Sarah Hurley

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