My Fair Lady Was a Pretty Woman

         My Fair Lady (1964) and Pretty Woman (1990) are practically the same film. Although Pretty Woman has a slightly altered story line, the stories are very similar. The films share so many of the same details it is amazing. Even their titles are practically the same.

         The films My Fair Lady and Pretty Woman are both rags-to-riches stories. In both of these films a poor woman becomes fancied by a rich man in some way, and is inclined to a higher class of living while with this man. My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor, is different because Audrey Hepburn's Eliza Doolittle is not a prostitute and hence not paid to stay with Rex Harrison's Henry Higgins, as Julia Roberts' Vivian Ward is in Pretty Woman. It is also different because in Pretty Woman, Richard Gere's Edward Lewis asked Vivian to escort him home; and in My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle just showed up on the door step, just as the original Eliza did in George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion. Another reason they are different is that Eliza is taking linguistics lessons from Professor Higgins and is not simply there for his pleasure. However, she does make him happy. Nevertheless, Pretty Woman was filmed in the early 1990s, and movies today require a little more spice to make it than in 1964.

         In both films the women are taught proper etiquette by the men and also by servants. In Pretty Woman a waiter teaches Vivian how to use silverware correctly. This waiter eventually becomes a friend of Edward Lewis. The waiter in Pretty Woman could be compared to Col. Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White) of My Fair Lady. They are both older men who admire the women and advise the men of the movies.

         In My Fair Lady, Higgins' housekeeper, Mrs. Pierce (Mona Washburn), teaches Eliza proper table manners. In both movies the women are reminded of correct posture and poise and are taught how to speak properly. However, in My Fair Lady, this attribute is what controls the whole movie, while in Pretty Woman, it is just another etiquette skill.

         In both movies the women are bought beautiful gowns and spoiled with other treats. In Pretty Woman, Vivian is offered champagne and anything else that can be ordered from room service. In My Fair Lady, Eliza is offered chocolates, and other candies. Both women are impressed with the food they receive and indulge themselves. In both movies the women are bought new clothes because their old clothes are not appropriate. In both movies the women are bought gowns for special occasions. In both movies the women attend two events. However, in My Fair Lady, Eliza is taken to a sort of "practice event" before the occasion for which she is preparing. In both cases these events involved horses. In My Fair Lady, Eliza is escorted to a horse race; in Pretty Woman, Vivian is taken to a Rugby game. Both women managed to handle themselves well at these events with little embarrassment. Both women attend another event of greater importance. In both movies the women meet an important person. In Pretty Woman, it is a famous business man; and, in My Fair Lady, it is the queen of Transylvania.

         In both movies the characters experience heartache. Higgins discovers in My Fair Lady that, when Eliza leaves, he misses her. Edward Lewis experiences the same feeling when Vivian' leaves. Both men prior to the women's departure offer to take care of the women by giving them a place to live. However, neither man directly expresses his true feelings for the woman he is involved with. Nevertheless, in both movies the women initially refuse; however, in the end they are back with the men.

         My Fair Lady and Pretty Woman are two films with a lot in common. Although I am sure Pretty Woman was not a modern-day version of My Fair Lady, the scriptwriter for Pretty Woman must have been a fan of My Fair Lady.

Elizabeth Satterwhite

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