Parental Charm

     I grew up with the charm of my father. He never seems to meet a stranger, and he loves to talk to anyone who will listen. As I read the 1913 play Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, I thought that Alfred P.Doolittle sounded a lot like my dad, even the drinking. My dad is an alcoholic. As I grew up, I never gave too much thought to his drinking. Depending on what he drank, his mood was affected. A few beers loosened him up, and we had a blast. If he drank whiskey he got violent, and we would avoid him.

     The 1938 movie, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, and the 1913 play--Pygmalion--gives one a small look at the relationship of Eliza, depicted by Wendy Hiller, and her father, Mr. Doolittle, played by actor Wilfred Lawson. I see the same life I had with my dad taken to more extreme. The part of the plot dealing with the relationship of the father and daughter is very small, but it does give enough to imagine it was one of convenience to the father. Eliza does not fear her father, but I do not doubt he would use violence on her. I get this impression from both the play and the film during Mr. Doolittle's visit to Henry Higgins, depicted by actor Leslie Howard, when he tells Higgins to give "her a lick of the strap now and again" (Shaw 38). Eliza shows fear at getting beat when Higgins threatens her, but at the same time she shows no fear of her father when he threatens her. It is as if she expects the threats from her dad. In the movie one can see her flinch when her dad draws back his arm, but one also sees her stand up to him too. In the end one sees Doolittle as a man of the middle class, saddled with the middle-class morality, but he has no morals to give his daughter and wants her to stay with Higgins. He wants her to come to his wedding, but he does not want to take her back into his home if he does not have to.

     Doolittle has charm, which he uses to get his daughter to give him money on occasion, and when he tries to get her to come to his wedding. She turns him down, but Pickering and Higgins' mother accept the invitation. His drinking is part of him, and Eliza seems to accept this, as I accept my dad. I like to think I was not just a convenience to my dad; but, growing up with a charming alcoholic, I can identify with this. This is just one thing one can think of as I view these two versions of Pygmalion. They are interesting, and I am glad I viewed them and can learn to accept my past--good and bad--with my charming father.

Tammy Wheeler

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