My Too Fair Lady

     After reading the 1913 play Pygmalion, by Bernard Shaw, and the 1956 play My Fair Lady by Alan J. Lerner, I thought that the character of Eliza seemed so realistic. From the crude dialect to the boyish mannerism, the character seemed to demand many talents from an actress or actor who would portray the part on screen or stage.

     The descriptions from both plays left me with the image of some filth-covered tomboy of a girl who would not be afraid to pick a fight with anyone. She would have to be rough and tough yet hold a soft and gentle side which only a few would see. Most of all, she could not be the type of person who would forget where she came from.

     Once I viewed the 1938 film Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, I was rather relieved. The part of Eliza, played by Wendy Hiller, was literally brought to life. She was not drop-dead gorgeous, but she had a beauty within her which was aching to get out. I felt she did a superb job of showing the difficulties of learning dialects and phonetics. I took a phonetics course one semester, and I grew irritated with the different sounds after about the first few weeks. Hiller seemed like the energizer bunny as she kept going and going. She did not seem to want anything to get in her way. My overall favorite part about Hiller's portrayal of Eliza came when she would let out: "Ah - ah - ah - ah - ow - ow - oo - oo!!!" When reading the plays, I could never figure out how to say it, and I think she did it perfectly. Something else I enjoyed about Hiller's performance was that she remembered where she came from. She never seemed to proud to admit to having been a poor flower girl.

     On the other hand, once I viewed the 1964 film My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor, I was greatly disappointed. I have always adored Audrey Hepburn as an actress and I still do, as I do all of the other characters in the film, but the musical on film killed it. I also felt Hepburn was too made up to play the role of Eliza. She seemed to be constantly perfect. Her transition from Covent Garden flower girl to uptown heiress was bit unbelievable. She never seemed to fit the role of a poor flower girl. She had this rich princess trying to get out image instead of the poor flower girl wanting to make something better of her life image. Once she left the streets, it almost seemed as if that was it. She put her past far behind her, and she did it fast.

     Overall, I enjoyed both plays and both films. I would have enjoyed the film of My Fair Lady more if it had not been a musical. As far as performances go, Hiller seemed to fit the needs of a character such as Eliza. Hepburn, on the other hand, was a bit too fair for my taste.

Kimberli DeRossett

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