Leslie Howard versus Rex Harrison

     In the movie Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard and based on George Bernard Shaw's classic 1913 play, Leslie Howard starred as the ever-pushy Henry Higgins. Rex Harrison also portrayed the same character in the 1964 version, My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor and based on Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1956 play. After viewing both films, I feel that Howard is the much better Higgins.

     When I read the play. I found that the character Higgins was a man with a complete lack of compassion. Howard was the most effective pulling this off. He ultimately did not care if Eliza succeeded. All he was concerned with was that she did not embarrass him. Howard had absolutely no concern as to whether she was tired, sick or aggravated. Harrison ruined this illusion when he gave Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) the speech before the "Rain in Spain" song when he told her she could do it; she just had to apply herself. Howard never would have done that.

     The character Higgins was also very aggressive, not comical like Harrison's portrayal. Howard was purely mean, as he was intended to be. When Higgins and Eliza (Wendy Hiller) were staying up all night studying proper titles for important people of rank and station, he continued to yell and drive her until she was completely frustrated. I think Harrison would have eventually given up.

     And finally, the reason I think Howard was better is that there was no real romantic love between him and Eliza. My Fair Lady was made into a love story; the film makers tried to make Higgins fall in love with Eliza. Howard was not in love. I am sure he loved Eliza, but he was no way in love with her. He was just too selfish to let her go.

Brandi Williams

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