Talent versus a Pretty Face

        Pygmalion (1938), directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, and My Fair Lady (1964), directed by George Cukor, are two films that are greatly respected by moviegoers around the world. Both film adaptations of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, Pygmalion, created an intensifying view of great respect in the master and minute details within each shot of each scene. Out of the two films, one film is highly favored over the other in the popularity vote of the general audience; and, even with extremely poor acting, this film manages to be on top. This film is My Fair Lady. I ask myself, why does this film get so much credit for leaving a big detail out such as the characters, where they are generally the main key ingredient in whisking the audience away to a fantasy land. In the end, after analyzing this monstrosity carefully, I have concluded the preference is due to the fact it was a musical; there were intense social politics among the academy award society; and there was a strong vanity admiration of Audrey Hepburn.

        There is no reason why My Fair Lady should get so much praise. The actress Audrey Hepburn has very little acting talent .When I watched George Cukor's 22.5 million-dollar film, My Fair Lady; I cringed and ground my teeth. The fact I had to sit for three hours for a film that had a series of musicals was not bad enough; it was enduring the horrendous acting job of Audrey Hepburn. The combination of the two was so mind-numbing, that it brought me to the point that I really, really wanted to stab myself with a pencil many, many times. To be fair about my bias against Audrey, I researched her carrier to see if I am just wrong about her talent. From what I found, I was not. The producers themselves at the beginning of post-production were even skeptical of her talent. They saw that her singing and acting were tremendously week; this almost led to a decision of giving the part to someone else. When Audrey's publicist heard this, he talked them into keeping her by having Marni Nixon dub her singing voice for the musical parts and getting the studio and press hype her beauty, not her talent. Keeping her was a good financial choice for them; but as for the art of film, the standards were lowered because she did not do her job as an actress. She did not let me believe even once that she was a flower girl; instead I just saw her as a girl who was a model trying to pretend to be a flower girl. Because I did not get this belief from her performance, at the climax when her character is transformed into a princess at the ball, there was no wow effect at all. This disappointed me and ruined the whole story for me.

        The impressive film that was beyond its time and should have gotten ten times more praise than My Fair Lady, is the film Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard. In this film each actor seemed to take note on the best way of presenting the character's personality very clearly onto film. It was almost as if the actors themselves were playing themselves, and they did was out of natural habit in real life. The two main actors, Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller, who played Henry Higgins and Liza Doolittle, did their job of actual acting. Wendy Hiller projected the personality of her character so well that she made me completely believe that she was this ragged, homely beggar of a flower girl, who has been working the streets of London most of her life. Leslie Howard's so projected his personality into Higgins, that character was quite convincing as a spoiled, no-mannered, no social skilled, genius that needs his daily life taken care of by another person. A fine example in the film of this skill is evident when I actually started to believe that Wendy is Liza, a real flower girl. This was evident in the first steps of Higgins's transforming of Liza. Wendy also makes the alteration convincing when her character whines and thrashes around continually. These actions then trigger my feeling of hostility, giving me the urge to shake the character and shout what Higgins was saying to her the whole time, which was basically, "Shut Up and ACT like a proper human being." Thus both actors created the emotions that made me believe in their characters, which is what acting is all about.

        At the end of it all, these two films--My Fair Lady and Pygmalion-- need to be re-judged in terms of their respective credibility and dismiss all commercial hype. Clearly, Pygmalion deserves all the accolades that My Fair Lady has wrongly gotten. When viewing these films, we need to see the film as a whole and then analyze the talent, and the art work as a separate entity. If the world analyzed films in this process then great intelligences, masterpieces, and sets of beautiful pure entertainment will get credit when credit is due. This will prevent forever, a horrible film, such as My Fair Lady, to be not ranked in the all-time classics just because of good marketing and good old ancient hype.

Shanah Zigler

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