Rags to Riches

     Pygmalion (1913) and My Fair Lady (1956) speak for themselves as being tremendous plays but, when brought to the big screen, can leave a different impression. Both the movies Pygmalion (1938) and My Fair Lady (1964) have their own variations of the original text. The two movies in themselves are quite different, due to the money and effort put into the productions. In return, the movies create a different response from their audiences.

     Pygmalion the movie, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, seemed to be more related to George Bernard Shaw's original text. Eliza, as played by Wendy Hiller, was more as I pictured her to be, especially as a flower girl. She fit the rugged look and spoke with a stronger accent. While going through her transition stage, Eliza seemed as though she was struggling and making slow, but promising improvements. When she finally went to the ball, she appeared to be transformed in every aspect; and her appearance was more realistic than that of My Fair Lady. I would not expect a flower girl, after a limited amount of training, to act like the Queen of England; therefore, this character was as I perceived Eliza to be.

     My Fair Lady the movie, directed by George Cukor, strayed from the original text quite a bit. Although partaking in a beautiful production, the characters in the movie were not as I perceived them in the book. Mostly, Eliza, as depicted by Audrey Hepburn, was too far-fetched in the movie. She was too extravagant and beautiful even as a flower girl. I did not believe she was living on the streets from her initial appearance. Eliza went through her transition too quickly, although she looked radiant as the lady. Because My Fair Lady was a musical, I suspected variations; but I found it too extravagant and unrelated to the original play.

     Both Pygmalion and My Fair Lady prove that anyone can change from rags to riches with a little help. They also show that any character can have a different effect on the audience depending on what actor/actress is playing the role, but the variations should not be so extreme that they do not portray the character well. Both actresses had their good points in playing Eliza; but the actress in My Fair Lady, Audrey Hepburn, seemed to play only the part of the lady well, and not that of the flower girl. Even though the actress in Pygmalion, Wendy Hiller, was not as extravagant as the lady, she was much more realistic as a flower girl and what a flower girl would probably look like after a limited time of transition. Regardless of my opinion, however, both movies are classics and should be regarded as nothing less.

Alison Brandow

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