In both stories, Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, the same themes, characters, and story lines appear. In Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard’s 1938 film, Pygmalion, the audience is left wanting more. In George Cukor’s 1964 film, My Fair Lady, the audience’s voids are filled with songs, costumes and vivid color!
The main difference between the two films is that My Fair Lady is a musical; Frederick Loewe wrote the music, while Alan Jay Lerner wrote the lyrics. With the movie being a musical, more emotions were expressed. The music also allowed the audience to feel what the characters were feeling. For example, when Higgins (Rex Harrison) sings about what happens when “you let a woman in your life,” we clearly understood his thoughts of why he wanted to stay a bachelor. It was the same with Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) when she sang about Henry Higgins and wanting him dead. The abuses and dislike she felt towards Higgins exploded, allowing the audience to feel her pain.
The costumes in My Fair Lady seemed to be more elaborate than the ones in Pygmalion. The one scene that really comes to mind is evident when they are at Ascot for the horse races. Everyone is dressed in black and crème, and it is a visual sensation. The hats were intricate with feathers, bows and lace. Both the men and women did not have a hair out of place, so the costumes added to the feel of the upper class morality. The costumes also nailed the middle and poor classes too!
One reason the costumes stuck out more in My Fair Lady is because it was in color! With black and white, viewers can only stretch their imagination so far. With color, people’s imaginations are brought to life! The audience can see the actor’s hair, eye and skin color instead of guessing. Costumes and props jump out at the audience instead of blending in with the background.
Thanks to songs, costumes, and color My Fair Lady takes the story of Pygmalion to a whole new level. My Fair Lady leaves the audience with a better understanding of the characters and their emotions, while feeding their visual and auditory senses to their fullest!