The Mannerless Phoneticist

         After reading George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, I came to the conclusion that Henry Higgins is not a man of my liking. He is a rude man that I could never stand to associate with if I had the chance. My disliking of him furthered as soon as I viewed the two filmed versions. Of the two films, I  preferred George Cukor's 1964 rendition of Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1956 My Fair Lady  to Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard's 1938 film. Professor Higgins, played by Rex Harrison, shows us more effectively than Leslie Howard's Higgins, what kind of man he really is, regardless of his high-quality education. Eliza Doolittle, preferably portrayed by Audrey Hepburn than Wendy Hiller, ends up being the "better man," when it comes to attitude and manners.

         Higgins immediately lets us know that he is quite an arrogant man as soon as he speaks to Eliza on the street corner. He abruptly begins mocking her accent and making painful faces when she speaks. It was quite an annoying sound, but any adults like him should have enough manners to keep their mouths closed, so to say, and continue on without making mean remarks to the individual. Obviously, Higgins is lacking common knowledge of manners. Who cares if one is able to identify origins of a stranger? Is it not more important to spare one's feelings and level of self-esteem?

         Soon after the whole fiasco of the bet being placed and Eliza accepting the offer, Higgins begins his lessons. After the first lesson I believe he is due a nice slap in the face. He may be creating a so-called lady, but he sure does not know how to treat one. A teacher of any subject should know that a new student is going to need assistance and help learning the material. Teachers are there to help and encourage. HA! Higgins does not know how to spell "encourage." He is a cruel human being who is only good at degrading other humans and their well-being.

         I enjoyed the movie of My Fair Lady, but I was unimpressed by his demeanor. Henry Higgins was impatient, presumptuous, and would never waste a minute of his time doing good for another. I was glad to see Eliza stand up for herself. If Higgins tried to act like that nowadays, I believe he would have some feminists after him and probably would not being doing so well in his career.

Lauren Cline

Table of Contents