Monday, I viewed the 1938 film version of this play and learned much once again through my laughs and tears.
Did you know that Shaw wrote the ‘Script & Dialogue’ for this film; winning an Academy Award which he pretended to eschew? I mean, damnation! It was a thoroughly English production after all. For an English film to receive American Awards was rather a big thing in those days.
Leslie Howard plays my favorite Professor Higgins; one year before he fights for the Confederacy in Gone With the Wind.
I have no doubt that my second favorite Higgins, Sexy Rexy, who had been on film and stage as much as Howard by that date, took the trouble to watch Howard before doing his musical presentation of the phonetics expert on stage and screen.
Harrison actually starred in the 1941 film adaption of Major Barbara.
I had just seen my annual presentation of My Fair Lady last week and was struck by the way that sets were copied and scenes were staged with the first movie’s take on things.
And knowing all about the play and the ‘38 presentation makes one giddy over how the musical came about.
They had to wait till George Bernard was dead before they presented the first stage production of the musical in 1956.. Hahahahaha. Shaw had died in the year of my birth but it took Lerner and Loewe six years to figure out how to turn it into a musical. The bastard almost lived an entire century and was vehement that his play would never become a musical. Hahhaha
Too much money involved for the keepers of the decedent’s estate to keep that wish fulfilled I would imagine.
In My Fair Lady, Pickering is portrayed more like a Watson to a Holmes in the old Sherlock films. More of a what what what kind of speaking by Mr. Wilfrid Hyde-White and I rather prefer his adaption for the part.
In Pygmalion, Pickering is more commanding and appears more upper class in manner.
In the 30’s flick, the housekeeper (Mrs. Pearce) is much more demanding and instructing and dictates her orders with a wonderful Scottish brogue. The servant ordering the gentleman is alluring to me.
There will never be a better Doolittle than that presented in My Fair Lady; there is something about the timing and posing demonstrated by Stanley Holloway; I don’t know. Of course the two songs presented by Doolittle in the musical are permanently lodged in my mind so that my opinion might be clouded.
Middle Class morality!
I loved Audrey Hepburn and I love her back story—her bio; a wonderful woman in all respects even though she seemed to despise food of any sort.
But Wendy Hiller is superb in this role as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion.
I have always been caught by her portrayal and since Audrey never really sang in the musical, Wendy wins my award in a landslide.
Wendy Hiller looks so very young and sensitive and you read her hopes and dreams in her face; really a magical portrayal in all respects. Describing the death of her aunt is always priceless:
Them that pinched it, done her in!
Gin was mother’s milk to her.
Shaw actually picked Wendy Hiller to play this role.
I am so very touched by the 30’s version anyway because I know that the hands of the godless Shaw are present in every scene. I see HIM in the decors presented on the several stages.
I apologize but I always have worshipped Shaw since college and always will. He was a scoundrel, a mean eugenics philosopher, an avowed socialist with a totalitarian slant and a man with whom it would be very difficult to discuss a subject. Shaw to some extent represents the devil as presented by beckerhead when you think about it. He just was more into Shaw’s laws rather than Sharia Law. ha
The man who supped at Stalin’s table. Hahahahaah
Of course the Brits threw a happy ending into the film; much to the consternation of Mr. Shaw. Hahaha
We must face the fact that Shaw rarely ever ‘finished’ a play anyway. He usually ended with some drawn out philosophical essay. He certainly has no ending for Pygmalion. He just goes on and on about how Eliza might marry Freddy and operate a flower shop or she might….
After reading many of his plays, several times, I always read Shaw into the role of Higgins.
That is seeing in him a man who viewed other people as roles or pawns to be distributed upon the stage as he wished and to defy anyone to challenge his choices. What is really strange to me is that he really wanted Charles Laughton to star as Higgins in the film!
George was middle class and not upper class as Higgins; the Shaws were Protestant in an occupied Dublin. He barely finished what we would call a high school. He lived with his mother after that receiving a pound a week while he educated himself at local libraries.
Schools were a waste of time and teachers merely wardens.
It is wagered that he never had sex with his wife eschewing carnal knowledge which is the kind of man Higgins presents without the pretense of marriage. Critics and professionals being human and all, suspect that those men who avoid carnal knowledge with women are homosexuals or priests or both.
And Shaw was a phonetics nut coming up with his own Shavian Alphabet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shavian_alphabet
So I guess that is why I see so much of Shaw in Higgins.
At any rate, these two films must be seen every year, for me anyway.
And not one gun shot, not one Zombie, not one act of intercourse, not one murder, not one fist fight, and not one ad in either one.
(This is written from memory, while watching Pygmalion, using wiki to ‘polish’)