Pygmalion and My Fair Lady: Musical or Nonmusical

         Basically the only issue to discuss with these two films is whether one likes the musical version, My Fair Lady, or the nonmusical version, Pygmalion, better. Both stories are basically the same, but George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 Pygmalion came out first. A doctor of vocabulary named Henry Higgins makes a bet with his colleague, Colonel Pickering, that he can turn a poor Cockney-speaking flower girl named Eliza Doolittle into someone he can pass off as royalty.

         There is a good dynamic conflict between the two main characters. Henry Higgins has the personality of a rock, and Eliza seems more wild and free spirited and caring. That is pretty much it for the story though. It is nothing too spectacular until it is turned it into a musical. Doing laundry or washing dishes can be spectacular if one turns it into a musical, though. That is why George Cukor’s 1964 My Fair Lady is better than Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard’s 1938 Pygmalion. My Fair Lady turns a mediocre story at best into something better. To audiences, the music and dancing add something to a rather dull story. Most of the audience gets bored to death watching the long drawn-out nonmusical that is Pygmalion. It could just as well be a half hour episode of I Love Lucy. Audrey Hepburn played a much more likeable Eliza than Wendy Hiller, which is another reason why My Fair Lady is better than Pygmalion.

         With all the discussion on which is better, I still think they both were not all that great. The story is dull, and there is little action unless one includes all the dancing in My Fair Lady as action.

         The saving element of the story is that it reveals an ending that one might not expect. Some audience members would want to see a happy love story ending between Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. It is unclear what their future will be though.

Brian Schuldt

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