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Comparing Pygmalion and My Fair Lady

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Comparing Pygmalion and My Fair Lady


Through the years, countless film directors have adapted and recreated various novels and plays to make them ideal for the big-screen. In many cases, directors strive to keep their screenplay adaptations true to the original literature; however, viewers often find contrasts in certain areas of the film. George Bernard Shaw, author of the play Pygmalion, who had passed away prior to the production of My Fair Lady in 1964, therefore, he could not assist in the transition from play to musical. For this reason, director George Cukor has attempted to retain some similarities and also incorporate a few changes of his own. Although readers can discover numerous similarities between My Fair Lady and Pygmalion in certain aspects such as character interaction and the portrayal of social status, one can also detect several contradictions in the two plots, especially during the conclusion.

Among the number of similarities readers will come across are the likenesses between the two works in character interaction. For example, in both the play and the film, Professor Henry Higgins has an overbearing paternal mentality regarding Eliza Doolittle. In accordance with the dialogue that Higgins speaks in the film regarding Eliza?s filthy disposition, readers of Pygmalion discover practically the same words: ?You know, Pickering, if you consider a shilling, not as a simple shilling, but as a percentage of this girl?s income, it works out as fully equivalent to sixty or seventy guineas from a millionaire? (Shaw 21). In addition, in both the film and the play, Eliza and Colonel Pickering share a bond that stems from her vulnerability and his compassion. For the duration of her stay at 27A Wimpole Street, Eliza often seeks comfort in the sympathetic Colonel because without this ally, she knows that she will not survive the wrath of Henry Higgins. In Shaw?s original version, readers can interpret Eliza?s trepidation through the dialogue. Similarly, in Cukor?s musical adaptation, viewers have the ability to watch Eliza?s facial expressions and body movement to understand her emotions. The videocassette offers the viewers a whole new world that they did not experience during their novel reading. Although the presentation of character interaction differs slightly in Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, the same themes occur.

Another evident simil...


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... to the play. Both versions have interesting variations that grab their audiences? attention; therefore, one is not superior to the other in any way. Certainly, George Cukor only establishes the variations in order to achieve a decent reception from moviegoers, because in most cases, people would rather see a film with a romantic, happy ending than see an unclear, ambiguous conclusion. Although there are more similarities than differences, a slight change, such as the emotions that the conclusions conjure in both readers and viewers, could change the entire theme and conclusion of the play.

Works Cited:

Shaw, George Bernard. Pygmalion. New York: Pocket Books, 1957.

My Fair Lady. Dir. George Cukor. Videocassette. Warner Brothers, 1964.

Burroughs, Liz. ?EUFS: My Fair Lady.? EUFS: The Film Society. 5 March 2001. Online.
Available http://eufs.org.uk//films/my_fair_lady.html. 30 October 2001.

Ebert, Roger. ?My Fair Lady.? Ebert. 23 September 1994. Online. Available
http://www.suntimes.com/ebert/ebert_reviews/1994/09/941937.html. 30 October 2001.

Moore, Harry T. Preface to George Bernard Shaw, Creative Artist by Homer E. Woodbridge.
Pygmalion. George Bernard Shaw.


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