Warden and His Prisoner

     Henry Higgins is a sloppy, unappreciated, bitter linguistics professor who has managed to scrape together a rather successful practice by teaching the well-to-do "proper English" in London. On the encouraging of his colleague, Colonel Pickering, Higgins accepts a bet to transform a poor squashed cabbage leaf of a flower girl into a duchess. Little does this woman-hating man realize that Liza, the flower girl, is actually an individual who will not put up with his lifestyle for long.

     Liza is the mirror image of the twentieth-century independent woman who has learned to live her life without being super-glued to a man's side. She no longer depends on her father for support and makes a decent living for herself selling second-rate flowers on street corners. Liza has made the most of her decrepit life by enjoying what little she has. She does not owe anyone anything.

     However, the spirit of Liza's personality is somewhat lost in the cinematic renditions of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion in the form of Pygmalion, directed in 1938 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, and My Fair Lady, directed in 1964 by George Cukor. In these movies, Liza, played by Wendy Hiller and Audrey Hepburn respectively, is reduced to a whiny, clingy young woman, who falls in love with Higgins, played by Leslie Howard and Rex Harrison respectively, despite the way he treats her. Higgins refers to Liza as an ignorant flower girl, a squashed cabbage leaf and many other demeaning phrases. He never praises her successes and takes all the credit for himself, even though she is the one who has stayed up all hours of the night speaking into his medieval voice recorder.

     The end of George Bernard Shaw's play shows Liza leaving Higgins and not coming back. But both movies appeal to the audience, by bringing Liza back to her warden. This destroys the view of Liza Shaw originally had for his Galeta. She is in fact no different from any other woman from the time era. According to these movies, Liza sold her freedom to Higgins for a chance to live a more comfortable life style.

     In the play, one almost expects Liza to whip out her bra and set it on fire because she seems so independent. One can picture her on the lines of the feminist movement demanding equal rights. In both movies, she loses her battle of wills to Higgins and properly ends up finding his papers and dictating his appointments while trying to find one of twenty little brats she has spawned with him.

     The conclusion of both movies leave a bitter taste in the mouth of anyone who has read the play. These are probably two of the cruelest hack jobs done to a play, just to appeal to the audience of its release.

Krista Matheny

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