The Teacher That Needed to Be Taught

     The 1964 film My Fair Lady, which was a musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, was directed by George Cukor. This film had a correlation between both main characters, Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) and Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn). Higgins was a phonetics teacher who was going to teach Eliza in six months how to be a well-mannered lady and attend the queen's ball. The correlation is that Higgins himself really needed taught how to dress, behave, and use manners at high-class functions.

     The first test that Higgins tries to pass Eliza off as a lady is conducted at the Ascot racetrack when Colonel Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White) and he take her to meet Mrs. Higgins (Gladys Cooper) and her tea party. It is here at the track that Higgins and Pickering dress Eliza for the occasion in a ravishing black and white dress with a big fancy hat. Colonel Pickering is also dressed in a nice suit with a top hat and escorts Eliza into the track. Both Pickering and Eliza are dressed well for the occasion and fit in with the others in attendance. Henry Higgins himself is dressed as an outcast. While all the males are wearing three-piece suits, with top hats, and canes, Higgins wears an old brown suit with a fedora hat. He is definitely under-dressed for the occasion. Mrs. Higgins does not seem pleased with Henry being in attendance, especially not when the only reason he says he is there is to test Eliza's social skills. Mrs. Higgins obliges and lets Henry, Eliza, and Pickering sit with them in her box. It is here that not only Eliza fails the test but also does Higgins. Eliza uses words that Mrs. Higgins and her friends have never heard before, talks of drinking and getting drunk, and explains how she believes her aunt had been murdered. She also embarrasses Mrs. Higgins and Henry by cursing at the horse she picked to win the race. Henry also fails at this test because he is very rude and standoffish toward Mrs. Higgins' friends. They seem just as shocked as she was that he is at the track. When one of the ladies approaches Henry for conversation, he blows her off and ignores her, as if her vocabulary is not equal to his and he is better than she is. That is how he acts towards all of his mother's company.

     The second test that Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering have for Eliza is her final test to attend the festive ball for the queen. It is here that Eliza looks very beautiful in her gown and turns everyone's head at the ball. Again, Colonel Pickering, who is wearing a black tuxedo and also looking very nice, escorts Eliza into the ball. It is here that all Eliza's learning pays off for the queen recognizes her as being the most beautiful at the ball. The prince also picks Eliza as his dance partner for the evening. Eliza and Pickering are well liked by all those in attendance at the ball. It is Higgins who again is under-dressed at the ball. He wears another old gray suit and does not fit in with the rest of the males in attendance at the ball. Higgins also acts very uppity toward those that try and talk to him. He is very proud of Eliza at the ball as is Pickering, but I feel that Higgins knows Eliza has outdone him in the back of his mind.

     Eliza has grown as a person and adjusted to the norms of high-class society, unlike Higgins, who has not been able to. That is why he does not know how to dress properly for functions and cannot socialize properly with people of the upper class. I feel that Eliza, as a student, has outdone her professor.

Cullan Couleas

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