Whatever Happened to Freddy Eynsford-Hill?

         In the cast of over-the-top characters in the world of Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller/Audrey Hepburn), there is one character who stands out as steadfast in his normality; that character is Freddy Eynsford-Hill (portrayed rather oafishly by David Tree in Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard’s 1938 Pygmalion and as a normal person by Jeremy Brett in George Cukor’s 1964 My Fair Lady). In the original work, Freddy has a purpose, but in the adaptations, he becomes almost entirely useless.

        Shaw’s original Freddy was a foil to Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard/Rex Harrison). Freddy is a man who cares for Eliza Doolittle and wants to treat her well. He pines for her; and, in the end, she runs away with him. Shaw’s desired ending is a happy ending, where Eliza breaks free of Higgins' condescending nature, and finds someone who will show her affection. Eliza’s relationship with Freddy shows Higgins that she is not simply an object that he paid five pounds for.

        Somewhere along the line, it was decided that Eliza should go back to Higgins, a man twice her age who thinks only of himself. Why? Do the writers think she should be with him simply because he is the lead male character? If Eliza is just going to go back to Higgins in the end with little explanation, what use does Freddy serve in the story? Eliza runs away with him; he gets what he had been hoping for. But then, with no known explanation, she leaves him to return to Higgins. He becomes a tragic figure, abandoned and forgotten in the end.

        What happens to Freddy? Does he understand Eliza’s wishes? Does she tell him at all? Maybe he develops a Heathcliff-like obsession with her. As well, Eliza’s longing to be shown respect and love is thrown out, in favor of consuming chocolates and being treated as a flower girl. The new ending that people such as Alan Jay Lerner believe to be right, undoes quite a bit of what Shaw wrote, and in favor of what exactly?

Jeremy Workman