The movies My Fair Lady, directed in 1964 by George Cukor, and Pygmalion, directed in 1913 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, are both based on the same play, by Bernard Shaw. Although they were similarities between the two movies, there were also some major differences such as one being a musical and the traits of the main characters being unlike each other's. It was these differences that added to the uniqueness of both movies.
Both movies start simply enough with a simple bet to turn a common girl into a proper lady, and both end with the commoner girl, Eliza Doolittle, becoming a proper lady. After a few of the same or similar scenes that helped move the storyline along and a couple of the same key lines, the similarities end.
The first major difference between the two movies is the genre, My Fair Lady is a musical, while Pygmalion is a comical love story. The musical aspect of My Fair Lady was used to give the audience a better understanding of the major characters and themes. Pygmalion, on the other hand, relied more on traditional methods to clarify the character motifs and themes such as back-story and dialog.
The actor is chosen to play a character and the manner in which characters are portrayed can make or break a movie. Fortunately, both movies had an excellent cast to work with, both using actors of similar age, appearance, and attitude for the various roles in the movies. The only exception is character of Higgins. The movie Pygmalion used Leslie Howard, an actor whose age was close to the character Eliza (Wendy Hiller), and this choice better hinted at a love between the two characters. However the movie makers of My Fair Lady picked Rex Harrison, an actor at least ten to fifteen years older than Eliza, (Audrey Hepburn), which took away from the hinted love between the two characters.
Although both movies had several similarities, it was their differences that turned a single base story and into two unique movies. This uniqueness created by the actors chosen, and the two different genres created two unique movies from one book.