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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Must-have movies: Pygmalion (1938)



    Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 17/11/2006



    Rachel Simhon reviews a classic that every film-lover will want to own



    You will be tempted to compare Anthony Asquith's version of Shaw's Pygmalion, which comes free with your Telegraph on Saturday, November 18, with its more familiar screen version, My Fair Lady. Resist the temptation.





    Sexy: Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion



    Instead, enjoy this film for its own merits – charm, wit, intelligence and a delicious naughtiness ("We want none of your slum prudery: we want you to behave like a duchess").



    What is more, because Shaw wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay himself, it is much closer to his original vision of the play as a satire on upper-class behaviour and social mobility.



    The plot is well-known. Prof Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard) bets he can turn garrulous guttersnipe Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) into a lady. Eliza is transformed, but she has a corresponding effect on Higgins, forcing him to accept that the world of feelings is as important as that of the intellect.



    At the heart of the film are two fine performances from Howard and Hiller. Howard, one of the most romantic leading men of his generation, plays Higgins as a bullying but sexy eccentric, unconscious of his effect upon his protégée.



    In her first major role, Hiller is a captivating Eliza – touchingly earnest and very funny to begin with: blithely unaware that her beautifully modulated "It is my belief they done the old woman in" is totally inappropriate tea-party chat. As she grows, her mobile, pixie face is transformed into beauty – and with it, dignity. Her quiet, "We sold flowers in Covent Garden. We did not sell ourselves," is heartbreaking.



    If you are wondering what relevance this period piece might have in a world where everyone speaks Estuary English, ask yourself whether a Jade Goody would have been considered such a joke if she had been taught to talk posh by a Henry Higgins.

  2. #2
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DB7
    If you are wondering what relevance this period piece might have in a world where everyone speaks Estuary English, ask yourself whether a Jade Goody would have been considered such a joke if she had been taught to talk posh by a Henry Higgins.
    Yes, she would :

    I don't know why they say to resist the temptation between this and My Fair Lady. They are interesting to compare and this one wins in many ways. It's a great film.



    Steve

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: Ireland
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    I can't disagrree with that.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: United States will.15's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DB7
    Must-have movies: Pygmalion (1938)



    Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 17/11/2006



    Rachel Simhon reviews a classic that every film-lover will want to own



    You will be tempted to compare Anthony Asquith's version of Shaw's Pygmalion, which comes free with your Telegraph on Saturday, November 18, with its more familiar screen version, My Fair Lady. Resist the temptation.





    Sexy: Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion



    Instead, enjoy this film for its own merits �€“ charm, wit, intelligence and a delicious naughtiness ("We want none of your slum prudery: we want you to behave like a duchess").



    What is more, because Shaw wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay himself, it is much closer to his original vision of the play as a satire on upper-class behaviour and social mobility.


    Shaw wasn't the sole author of the screenplay, the others were Anatole de Grunwald, W.P. Lipscomb, Cecil Lewis, and Ian Dalyrimple. For an idea of what Shaw's screenplay looked like, some versions of the published play include additional scenes in a narrative style that are from Shaw's filmed treatment. He certainly isn't the author of the changed ending which is included in the musical. There isn't that much difference between the movie version of Pygmalion and the musical, the main difference, I think, being Eliza's first preliminary and disasterous introduction to society.



    I like the 1938 better. Rex Harrison is a slightly better Henry Higgins, but Wendy Hiller is far better than Audrey Hepburn and the musical is too stagebound to be a total success,

  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: UK CaptainWaggett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by will.15
    Shaw wasn't the sole author of the screenplay, the others were Anatole de Grunwald, W.P. Lipscomb, Cecil Lewis, and Ian Dalyrimple. For an idea of what Shaw's screenplay looked like, some versions of the published play include additional scenes in a narrative style that are from Shaw's filmed treatment. He certainly isn't the author of the changed ending which is included in the musical. There isn't that much difference between the movie version of Pygmalion and the musical, the main difference, I think, being Eliza's first preliminary and disasterous introduction to society.



    I like the 1938 better. Rex Harrison is a slightly better Henry Higgins, but Wendy Hiller is far better than Audrey Hepburn and the musical is too stagebound to be a total success,
    My Fair Lady is, as you say, definitely based on the film Pygmalion rather than the play which doesn't have any of the scenes where Eliza actually learns to speak proper - it more or less jumps from her arriving for her lessions to the disastrous tea-party ('not bloody likely'). And, of course, those are probably the best remembered scenes.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: England cornershop15's Avatar
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    A fantastic publicity still of Wendy Hiller as Eliza Doolittle:





    I can't believe people like Anthea Turner have a thread dedicated to them while distinguished actresses such as Wendy Hiller are ignored.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Country: UK RogerThornhill's Avatar
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    Here she is later in the movie, coo'er posh eh?


  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: England faginsgirl's Avatar
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    Just thought I`d mention that if people go to the `pathe news` thread, in the British films and chat section there is a film of George Bernard Shaw being interviewed (although it`s just a general interview, not about Pygmalion).



    xx

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: United States will.15's Avatar
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    http://criterioncollection.blogspot....pygmalion.html





    No 35Pygmalion, London, April 11 1914Bernard Shaw is appalled by the shallow audiences for Pygmalion, at His Majesty's, London, April 11 1914



    Beerbohm Tree and George Bernard Shaw were not obviously compatible men. Tree was the actor-manager who brought Shakespeare to the West End, supported playwrights, founded Rada and specialised in outrageous bombast, trowelled-on greasepaint and practical jokes. Shaw was teetotal, vegetarian, passionately political and had switched from being a starstruck critic to a painstaking playwright, taking eight long years to produce his "first and worst" play, Widower's Houses. He wrote Pygmalion as a gift for Stella Patrick Campbell, a capricious, raven-haired, bewitching star he loved "violently and exquisitely". On reading the play, she wrote thanking him "for thinking I can play your pretty little slut"; she was flattered, too, as Eliza was 30 years her junior. Tree would play Higgins and also direct.



    Rehearsals were stormy. Shaw yelled at Tree for being "so damned treacly!" and wrote irate letters. Tree scribbled in his notebook, "I will not go so far as to say that all people who write letters of more than eight pages are mad, but it is a curious fact that all madmen write letters of more than eight pages." Just before the dress rehearsal, Campbell disappeared to get married secretly.



    The press swarmed about the theatre, and Tree gave an impromptu press conference, lying that he had known all about the wedding. He also had to contend with questions on the play; all London knew that Eliza was scripted to cry out: "Not bloody likely!" The Daily Sketch speculated on the "forbidden word... Will Mrs Patrick Campbell speak it? Has the censor stepped in, or will the word spread? If he does not forbid it then anything might happen!" When Campbell did pronounce the "incarnadine adverb" (as the Daily Mail fastidiously put it), the audience laughed for a full 75 seconds. Appalled by the shallow response, Shaw stormed off.



    The word was denounced by preachers, politicians and by a genuine flowergirl the Daily Express took to the play and then bribed with several pints of milk stout to say that the language was shocking. Campbell, on the other hand, was "just luvly - but she was not altogether what you might call true ter life. As for Bernard Shaw, well, he thinks a blooming sight too much of himself, he does." Another audience member wrote to the Sandwich Gazette to lament: "Ever since Mr Shaw flung his unprintable word at the play-going public, my wife, who is a refined and educated woman, has regarded it as a huge joke to use this expletive... May I ask whether one's sense of humour is likely to be still further strained?"



    The critics were less prurient. The Daily Sketch judged the word "absolutely appropriate... and Mrs Patrick Campbell's consummate comedy acting robs the phrase of all offensiveness". Other critics speculated on whether Tree was lampooning someone famous, "Sir Herbert is made up to an astonishing likeness to Lord Northcliffe," asserted the Times, while the Northern Echo observed that "Sir Herbert contrives to resemble Mr Asquith" and the Observer thought he looked "exactly like Mr Winston Churchill". Overall, though, the verdict was that Pygmalion - the first of Shaw's plays to become a popular hit - was, as the Daily Telegraph put it, "the jolliest stuff".



    Mollified, Shaw returned for the play's 100th performance, but was horrified to find that Tree had changed the ending; Higgins now threw Eliza a bouquet as the curtain fell, presaging their marriage. Now that his affair with Campbell was over, the romantic ending was particularly galling. "My ending makes money; you ought to be grateful," scrawled Tree. "Your ending is damnable; you ought to be shot," snarled Shaw. Tree would have been pleased to know that the musical, My Fair Lady, retained and extended his ending. Shaw might well have been horrified at seeing his argument for social mobility reduced to what may have been his secret subtext: a love-letter to the woman who spurned him

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: UK didi-5's Avatar
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    As much as I like My Fair Lady, the 1938 film of Pygmalion is a lot of fun. If you only know Leslie Howard from GWTW or war films, he displays his lighter touch here (as he did in Hollywood opposite Joan Blondell in 'Stand-In'). If you only know Wendy Hiller from her imposing later roles, she's a delight here. The only false note is the completely idiotic Freddy.

    I have copies of two good TV versions of Pygmalion as well, one with Lynn Redgrave and one with Twiggy. But the 1938 version remains my favourite.

  11. #11
    Member Country: United States harkin's Avatar
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    I like My Fair Lady except for the songs. Even so Pygmalion is far superior.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: UK
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    Can i suggest to those interested the book by Valerie Pascal "The Devil and His Disciple".It charts the relationship between Pascal and Shaw including the making of this film.I come away with the understanding of why only 3 films came out of this partnership.Pascal was very much a mini korda but without his clout.Shaw was capricious to the end.He wanted to draw up his won agreements with producers which they wouldnt accept so no film resulted.He wanted to limit exploitation of his films to a limited period.In his will it was 5 years but this had to be circumvented so that Pascal could produce "Androcoles And The Lion" at RKO.His widow incidentally claims that it was Pascal who had the idea to turn Pygmalion into a stage musical.

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