The Lesser Ending

     The 1938 movie Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, was adapted from the 1913 play Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw. The story takes place in London, England, in the early twentieth century. The three main characters are Mr. Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard), Colonel Pickering (Scott Sunderland), and Miss Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller). The three characters in the play and the movie grow together, but the endings of both of them change to suit the audience needs instead of the characters changes.

     The main focus of the story is that Miss Doolittle is a flower girl on the streets of London. She was born poor and from the looks of her seems to be destined to stay that way. However, with the help of Mr. Higgins, she could get out of the rut of her life. The main problem is her form of speech. Miss Eliza Doolittle meets Mr. Higgins and the Colonel when she first tries to sell Colonel Pickering, then Mr. Higgins flowers in the St. Paul's Church in Convent Garden. Mr. Higgins and Colonel Pickering become acquainted at the same time. Mr. Higgins notices Ms. Doolittle's dialect and comments on it. His study is that of dialects, and he helps people to overcome their speech problems. Miss Doolittle figures this out and decides to go to Mr. Higgins the next day so that she can possibly build herself a way out of the impoverished state of living that she is in. She wants to possibly own her own flower shop instead of selling flowers on the street.

     The story continues with Mr. Higgins and the Colonel helping Eliza to better herself. Eliza evolves into a lady through the hard work that she does with the help of the Colonel and Mr. Higgins. The men in her life help her to become a lady. Eliza becomes a remarkable lady, impressing many people, including the Queen of Transylvania and her son, at the Transylvanian Embassy ball that they attend to show her off.

     Eliza also impresses Mr. Higgins mother (Marie Lohr) and her friends, especially Freddy Enysford-Hill (David Tree). Freddy is a goofy man who falls in love with Eliza, for he thinks that she is beautiful and tells the funniest stories. This is the only man in Eliza's life who actually cares for her as a person in the play. Mr. Higgins and Colonel Pickering care for her; however, they see her more as a responsibility than as friend and respectable person. Their attitude makes Eliza realize her place in society. In the play and the movie, during the scene after the ball, when Henry asks Eliza to fetch his slippers for her, she is hurt because she realizes that she is. When he does this, she sees how he views her as no more than another servant in his life.

     In the play and the movie Eliza leaves and runs off with Freddy, later telling Mr. Higgins at his mother's house that she will take care of Freddy. However, in the movie, Eliza then leaves to be with Freddy; but, when she does, Henry gets jealous at this point and goes home. When he gets there, he thinks about her. Therefore, when he turns around, after hearing her speak, "I washed my face and hand before I came, I did," to discover that she is at the door, he is happy, as can be seen by the expression on his face. But instead he pulls his hat over his eyes and tells her again to fetch his slippers. This is the beginning of their relationship and the end of the movie.

     I enjoyed the movie until the ending. I regarded the ending of the movie as sad because I felt that the whole point of Eliza's changing was to better herself, not to fetch Mr. Higgins' slippers. To me, the ending of the movie did not do the play justice, for the conclusion made it look as if Eliza had changed for Mr. Higgins instead of for herself.

Allison Nall

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