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Pygmalion (1938)

Not Rated  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Romance  |  3 March 1939 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 5,695 users  
Reviews: 64 user | 30 critic

Shaw's play in which a Victorian dialect expert bets that he can teach a lower-class girl to speak proper English and thus be taken for a lady.


(play) (as Bernard Shaw) , (scenario and dialogue) (as Bernard Shaw) , 5 more credits »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Wilfrid Lawson ...
Marie Lohr ...
Scott Sunderland ...
Jean Cadell ...
David Tree ...
Everley Gregg ...
Leueen MacGrath ...
Esme Percy ...
Violet Vanbrugh ...
Iris Hoey ...
Ysabel, Social Reporter
Viola Tree ...
Perfide, Social Reporter
Irene Browne ...
Duchess (as Irene Brown)
Kate Cutler ...
Grand Old Lady


The snobbish & intellectual Professor of languages, Henry Higgins makes a bet with his friend that he can take a London flower seller, Eliza Doolittle, from the gutters and pass her off as a society lady. However he discovers that this involves dealing with a human being with ideas of her own. Written by Steve Crook <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He picked up a girl from the gutter - and changed her into a glamorous society butterfly ! . . . See Wendy Hiller, new star discovery, in this amazing role ! See more »


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

3 March 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Pigmalión  »

Box Office


$350,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Wide Range System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The original Broadway production of "Pgymalion" opened at the Park Theater opening October 12, 1914 and ran for 72 performances. The play premiered in a German translation at the Hofburg Theatre in Vienna on October 16, 1913 and in English at His Majesty's Theatre in London on April 11, 1914 and starred 'Mrs Patrick Campbell'. See more »


When Higgins and Pickering tear off all about London looking for Eliza, several contemporary (late 1930's) cars are in the background. This film was set in 1912. See more »


Prof. Henry Higgins: Yes, you squashed cabbage leaf, you disgrace to the noble architecture of these columns, you incarnate insult to the English language, I could pass you off as the Queen of Sheba!
See more »


Version of My Fair Lady (1964) See more »

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User Reviews

"Where the devil are my slippers, Eliza?"
26 October 2005 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

The nice thing about watching the screen version of Pygmalion is that having seen My Fair Lady and heard the original Broadway cast album a few thousand times, you know where the songs are supposed to go.

And you know the plot. There's a little more of George Bernard Shaw's social commentary about class in this one, but still we enjoy the romance of the man falling in love with his creation.

Leslie Howard is cast very much against type here. The romantic idealist that was Alan Squire or Ashley Wilkes, there's no trace of here. Professor Henry Higgins is one misanthropic fellow, a man who's disdained the social class mores of the pre-World War I, United Kingdom. But he's no social crusader. He's taken up the esoteric study of language and phonetics and on a bet with Colonel Pickering, boasts he can obliterate class lines for any subject by teaching proper speech.

And who's the subject, cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle. Someone who Higgins opens a new world for and after the wager is finished, just can't go back to what she was.

As in My Fair Lady, the funniest scenes are Eliza trying to master the English of the Oxford Dons. We don't get the Rain in Spain here, sung and danced as Eliza breaks through, but it's still the part I like the best.

Shaw's commentary about class distinctions come out of the mouth of Alfred P. Doolittle. Wilfrid Lawson's ideas about morality may very well make him the most original moralist in the English speaking world. The poor just can't afford them and he's driven kicking and screaming into the middle class with a sudden burst of luck. Think Mickey Rourke in Barfly, forced to clean up his act for the sake of convention.

Pygmalion introduced Wendy Hiller to the screen as Eliza Doolittle. It's a difficult part as Eliza evolves in front of us. Quite a revelation for Leslie Howard also.

Hiller of course would be another Shavian heroine in Major Barbara, another great role for her. Howard, sadly, never got a chance to tackle George Bernard Shaw again. I could see him as Caesar in Caesar and Cleopatra or Cusins in Major Barbara.

Even without the songs, Pygmalion can be seen and enjoyed by all.

16 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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