To Sing or Not to Sing

     Being a hopeless romantic, I love musicals. This, however, is not going to persuade me in making an objective decision as to which movie, both based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, was more effective, Pygmalion or My Fair Lady. Each movie was excellently made and directed. One, however, stands out as more effective in getting the story across.

     Pygmalion, directed in 1938 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, seemed to rush the plot. There seemed to be much pressure in getting the story wrapped up in under than two hours. The actors seemed to be rather emotionless. The strong attraction in the play between Eliza and Higgins was missing in the screen version of Pygmalion, with Eliza played by Wendy Hiller and Higgins depicted by Leslie Howard. The infatuation of young Freddy was also terribly downplayed by David Tree, who acted Freddy.

     My Fair Lady, directed in 1964 by George Cukor and taken from Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1956 play, I had all the romance and pizzazz that a hopeless romantic such as myself longs for. The actors were beautiful and fiery. They played their parts well and brought their characters to life. Of course, the music did help. In Pygmalion, there were many circumstances that the character's emotions should have been explored. This could not be done simply through dialogue. In the same instances, the songs in My Fair Lady helped the viewer understand exactly how the character feels. A perfect example is Freddy's (Jeremy Brett) love of Eliza (Audrey Hepburn). This is explored much deeper in My Fair Lady. Freddy's song outside Higgins' home, "On the Street Where You Live," really lets the reader see just how much he cares about Eliza.

     Of course, musicals are not as realistic as an ordinary movie, but who really wants realism anyway? I love the fantasy of a musical. I do not want to see real life; I can see that everyday. Real life does not have a happy ending; fantasy does. Even this musical has a happy ending. Because the viewer cannot be certain whether or not Eliza stays with Higgins (Rex Harrison in the musical), he or she can have the movie end the way he or she wants it to. This way, everyone is happy.

     In my opinion, music was essential to the success of My Fair Lady. I would not want to see the play without the music. It makes it so much more romantic and entertaining.

Shannon Powers

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