What Kind of Happy Ending Is That?

         Wendy Hiller does an excellent job playing the role of Eliza Doolittle in Gabriel Pascal's 1938 film version of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard. However, one thing perturbed me about the film. Why does Eliza (Wendy Hiller) go back to Henry (Leslie Howard) after he has treated her the way he had? The better ending seems, to me, to be the ending in the original play.

         Throughout the entire play and movie Henry is blatantly verbally abusive toward Eliza. He calls her names, such as squashed cabbage leaf, and pushes her to her limits on a regular basis. Yet she stays in hopes of making something of herself and winning Henry's bet for him. When she does finally win the bet, he never once acknowledges her accomplishments. Everything was "Me, me, me--look what I did!"

         Poor Freddy has longed for Eliza all the while. In the movie he (David Tree) gets left out in the cold. Does he really deserve this kind of treatment? He may be an idiot, but at least he respects her. Eliza has a chance to be happy and loved, but she throws it away to go back to a man who does not respect her or her feelings. Is this a happy ending? I just do not think so.

         In the play, Eliza has more self-respect than in the film. She leaves Henry to take care of his own business so that she can build a better life for herself. This is the reason that she came to Henry in the first place. If she had not wanted to better herself, she could have stayed in the gutter that she came from. If she did not leave Henry in the end, was there ever really a point?

         I found it very difficult to accept the cinematic adaptation. If one chooses to make Pygmalion a love story one, should focus on the real possibility of love, not the further possibility of abuse.

Mary Parker

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