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Pygmalion (1938)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 3 March 1939 (USA)
A phonetics and diction expert makes a bet that he can teach a cockney flower girl to speak proper English and pass as a lady in high society.

Writers:

George Bernard Shaw (screen play and dialogue) (as Bernard Shaw), W.P. Lipscomb (scenario) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Leslie Howard ... Henry Higgins
Wendy Hiller ... Eliza Doolittle
Wilfrid Lawson ... Alfred Doolittle
Marie Lohr ... Mrs. Higgins
Scott Sunderland Scott Sunderland ... Colonel George Pickering
Jean Cadell ... Mrs. Pearce
David Tree ... Freddy Eynsford Hill
Everley Gregg ... Mrs. Eynsford Hill
Leueen MacGrath ... Clara Eynsford Hill (as Leueen Macgrath)
Esme Percy ... Count Aristid Karpathy
Violet Vanbrugh ... Ambassadress
Irene Browne ... Duchess (as Irene Brown)
Kate Cutler ... Grand Old Lady
O.B. Clarence ... Mr. Birchwood - the Vicar
Ivor Barnard ... Sarcastic Bystander
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Storyline

The snobbish and 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 <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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 »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 March 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Pigmalión See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

GBP87,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System Wide Range)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first British movie to use the word "bloody" in its dialogue. This may not make much of an impression on a modern and/or American audience, but that particular expletive was considered extremely vulgar. See more »

Goofs

After the ball when Mrs. Pearce is serving Professor Higgins his tea, the shadow of the camera can be seen in the bottom left, moving back across his blanket. See more »

Quotes

Prof. Henry Higgins: [directed to Eliza in anger] Get out and come home and don't be a fool!
Mrs. Higgins: Very nicely put indeed, Henry. No woman could resist such an invitation.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: PYGMALION WAS A MYTHOLOGICAL CHARACTER WHO DABBLED IN SCULPTURE. HE MADE A STATUE OF HIS IDEAL WOMAN-GALATEA. IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL THAT HE PRAYED THE GODS TO GIVE IT LIFE. HIS WISH WAS GRANTED.

BERNARD SHAW IN HIS FAMOUS PLAY GIVES A MODERN INTERPRETATION OF THIS THEME. See more »

Alternate Versions

This film was made a year before the Hays Office gave Clark Gable permission to say "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn", so while in the British prints of this film Leslie Howard often utters the word, in the American prints the word "damn" is replaced by either "hang" or "confounded". See more »

Connections

Referenced in Rhinestone (1984) See more »

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User Reviews

Magnificent, compelling, but not My Fair Lady
10 March 2003 | by rsimardSee all my reviews

Even if I had not yet seen this film I'd have had good reason to assume its merit simply because George Bernard Shaw, as cantankerous and protective of his work as he was, liked it. But I have seen it, many times, and that only validates that conclusion.

Leslie Howard not only starred in it but co-directed as well, and accomplished both magnificently. His rapid-fire intensity, conveying the true overbearing Higgins using Eliza as if she were "a block of wood," to quote, to be sawed, hewn, nailed, drilled and pounded into an object to his liking, is wonderfully complemented by Wendy Hiller's Eliza, bringing us to understand the full range of her growth from the depths of her imprisonment in the class of the street vendor barely escaping mendacity by selling flowers to a real princess, not by royal birth, but by her strength and accomplishment. Higgins may like to claim credit for her transformation; but it's Eliza who really made it happen.

There's a lot said here comparing Pygmalion to My Fair Lady. That's really a classic apples-and-oranges fallacy. Musical theatre is an entirely different art form, with a different goal. It's clear that if this interpretation of Pygmalion had been duplicated with songs and dances tacked on, it would have been horrible; yet My Fair Lady is a triumph of its art. It's often called a musical adaptation. That's mistaken; it's "based on" Pygmalion. The nature of musical theatre requires a different approach. To evaluate either by the standards of the other is a waste of time and thought.

Shaw would undoubtedly have hated MFL; his revulsion for Romanticism and the failure of The Chocolate Soldier, the operetta based on Arms and the Man, would guarantee that. MFL is not a musical Pygmalion, and should never be mistaken for one.

It is a great tribute to the genius of George Bernard Shaw and his best-known play that it could spawn both this artful and powerful movie version and a greatly different and beautiful musical as well.


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