Let Us Stick With the Classic

     After watching the two film versions of the 1913 play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, I realized that newer does not necessarily mean better. In 1938, the film Pygmalion, directed by directors Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, was released. Twenty-six years later, the newer version of this classic play was released under the title, My Fair Lady, by director George Cukor. In comparing the two films, I concluded that Pygmalion far outweighed the extravagant 1964 version, My Fair Lady.

     In Pygmalion, Eliza Doolittle is portrayed by a young actress named Wendy Hiller. I feel that Wendy did an excellent job with her part as Eliza Doolittle. Eliza suffers from a stigmatized dialect that is ever so common with people of her same upbringing and heredity. Wendy Hiller mastered this dialect to a point where I had to ask myself if she was really acting the part. Audrey Hepburn played Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. I do not feel as though she was able to get as good of a grasp on the language. Pygmalion also focuses a lot more on the struggle Eliza Doolittle faced in her quest for better language skills. We were able to follow Eliza on a day-by-day basis in her training with Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard). In My Fair Lady, we are watching Eliza struggle with her speech; and then the next thing we know, she is speaking perfect English. I feel as though audiences can gain a lot more respect for Eliza's character if they can see just how much of a struggle she endured.

     The one thing that I disliked most about My Fair Lady was how the movie dragged along for almost three hours. Credit has to be given to the elaborate settings and musical scenes, but one has to know when enough is enough. Pygmalion, with its less elaborate sets and costumes, contained the perfect amount of humor and drama to hold my attention and keep me entertained. My attention span was dwindling with My Fair Lady.

     There were too many things going on at once. The movie would show a scene with Eliza, and the next thing you know, we get into a completely different scene with Eliza's father Alfred Doolittle (Stanley Holloway). Also to be perfectly honest, some of the wardrobe choices in My Fair Lady were a little extravagant. Eliza was to be made into a lady, not a spectacle. In Pygmalion, Eliza looked very modern and intelligent. She was never overdone. Both Pygmalion and My Fair Lady won numerous awards and had some of the highest scores from film critics known in film history.

     They say the newer something is, the better. In the case of these two films, both based on the 1913 play Pygmalion, I could not disagree more.

Jamie Steffy

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