The Academy Award-winning musical film My Fair Lady produced by George Cukor in 1964, was based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw written in 1913. Although, the basic story line and underlying themes are the same, there are a number of differences between the two famous works. The most pronounced difference is that My Fair Lady had songs added to the dialogue. Furthermore, Pygmalion deals with many of the social issues that were occurring during the Victorian era in England, which is different from the musical which portrays what a person can do if they put forth a true effort.
In My Fair Lady there is more emphasis on Eliza’s character developing her speech and going through all the unusual exercises’ such as speaking with marbles in her mouth and being hooked up to a machine while saying her vowels, than in the written play. This is probably due to the fact that in the play people should expect all of this to happen and don’t need to be told. Also, Cukor’s My Fair Lady did this in the musical because it adds entertainment value.
When Eliza finally is able to speak well, Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering decided to take her to meet Higgins’ mother to see how see would behave around other distinguished people of high class society. This is the same in both Pygmalion the play and My Fair Lady the musical, however, in the musical they take her to meet Professor Higgins’ mother at a horse race where as in the play they take Eliza to Higgins’ mother’s house. Also, in the play Eliza meets Mrs. Eynsford Hill, Clara, and Freddy at Higgins’ mother’s while in the musical she doesn’t meet Clara, only Mrs. Eynsford Hill and Freddy at the horse race.
After Mr. Doolittle is made into a wealthy man, which happens in both works, he marries his live-in girlfriend. In the play, he visits Mrs. Higgin’s before going to the church to get married where as in the movie he doesn’t visit her at all. The first point in the play when you find out that Mr. Doolittle has become wealthy and is going to get married is when Eliza goes back to the street where she used to live and sees her father coming out of a bar. That is when he informs her that he is getting married the next.
At the final test of Eliza’s improvement, the Ambassadors party, she meets the queen of Transylvania in the musical but she does not in the play. Actually, this entire scene is skipped in Shaw’s play. The end of the musical is open ended, leaving the readers to come up with their own ideas and feelings about what is going to happen next. Maybe Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle will live happily together like the myth that Pygmalion is based on, Pygmalion and Galetea.
Although there are many contrasting events that occur in the musical and in the play they do have many things in common. They have the same characters, although some are developed more in one than in the other. The basic thought and idea’s are the same throughout the musical and play which is expected since My Fair Lady is based on Pygmalion.
I enjoyed the musical more than the play because I feel like the musical went into a lot more depth of Eliza’s transformation. The songs and the actors in My Fair Lady really brought the story to life. For me, Rex Harrison’s portrayal of Professor Higgins was absolutely perfect; he was able to show more sides of Professor Higgins’ psyche than you could experience by reading the play. Pygmalion is the type of play that will never be forgotten, even though My Fair Lady is perhaps the most memorable movie based on Shaw’s play, there has been many other renditions, such as Pretty Woman, and there will probably many more made in the future.