While at the Races

         Although I would have to say that the 1938 film version of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, makes a more enjoyable film than My Fair Lady, which was directed in 1964 by George Cukor, many would beg to differ. One positive difference made in the film My Fair Lady from the film Pygmalion was replacing the "stay at home day" scene from the film Pygmalion with "day at the Ascot tracks" scene in the film My Fair Lady. This one scene gives the musical a one-up. It is obvious that Cukor and his costume designer and artistic director, Cecil Beaton, had spent a significant amount of time on this scene because it is so vital to the story line.

         Every woman at the racetrack is wearing black and white dresses with elaborate hats; the men are all dressed in gray suits. This shows how everyone is meant to be uniform and not original. Eliza, played by Audrey Hepburn, fits in nicely with her fancy dress and hat; but her appearance does not cover up her upbringing for very long. Professor Higgins, played by Rex Harrison, stands out from the other gentlemen by wearing a brown, untraditional suit. This shows that he is unlike everyone else there. These people are very proper, very well off, and very image conscious. This is the perfect place for the professor to test whether or not Eliza is ready to act like a lady.

         Eliza is interrupted from further explaining the murder of her aunt by the horse race that is about to begin. While they wait for it to get underway, everyone freezes. This shot captures the intensity and importance of the scene. The director wants his audience to remember this moment, how elegant everyone looks while experiencing this event. When the people come to life again, the race begins. As the horses make it around the stretch everyone besides Eliza quietly and calmly wait for the winner. Eliza, caught up in the moment, instinctively yells out, "Move your bloomin arse." To say the least, everyone is shocked.

         This scene shows how much work Eliza still needs before she will be able to pull off her "act." It is this one scene that surpasses all the others in both Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. This scene captures its audience with its elaborate customs, cinematography, and directing.

Allison Webster

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