Stewart's Reviews > Pygmalion

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
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Feb 23, 12

Read in January, 2012

A few weeks ago, I showed a friend a DVD of the "My Fair Lady." My friend, who is trying to improve her English as a second language, hadn’t seen the movie before. Watching the acclaimed 1964 film, I wondered how the 1956 Lerner and Lowe musical, upon which the movie was based, differed from the 1912 play "Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw upon which the musical was based.
I picked up a $1 Dover edition of the play from the Oakland Public Library and quickly read it. The play and Shaw’s afterward are only 82 pages.
The play had no scene at Ascot as does the movie musical, and there was no embassy ball where Eliza Doolittle is brought out into high society. In the play I read, there is a garden party that Eliza goes to, but it is offstage and all we see is Henry Higgins, Colonel Pickering, and Eliza returning home after the party. Researching the play, I read that Shaw included an embassy ball in his original production but indicated that subsequent productions could delete the scene if they didn’t have an elaborate stage machinery for it. The 1938 movie "Pygmalion" brought back the embassy ball, as did the 1964 movie.
Other than the omission of those two scenes, the filmed musical follows the play closely, including retaining much of Shaw’s witty dialogue.
I found the Henry Higgins of the movie to be on occasion a misogynist in his utterances, something I did not see in the Shaw play where Higgins is more of a misanthrope, having a poor opinion of just about everybody.
At the conclusion of his play, Shaw adds what amounts to an epilogue, telling the readers what he thought happened to the characters. He writes that Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins would never marry. In fact, Eliza marries Freddie.
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