It was from you I learned really nice manners. And that’s what makes one a lady now, isn’t it? And that’s what makes the difference after all – Eliza Doolittle.
This film is a classic rags to riches tale from 1938, based on a stage play of the same name written George Brenard Shaw. The character of Higgins attempts to turn this average “gutter-snipe,” Eliza Doolittle, into a proper lady by teaching her how to speak proper English and behave in a civilized manner. This would seem to present a rather unsettling conclusion: for a woman to marry someone above her station, or indeed for anyone to advance their social status, they must put on a kind of performance without any real substance. Higgins seems to not only be aware of this but is also willing to treat Eliza like an object to achieve his ends.
Overall the film has a great visual style which works well with the script. I was reminded once again why I prefer older black and white films: the acting feels much more authentic, by and large, than anything I could go to a theatre and see today. The only problem I had with the film besides Higgins’ morally dubious behaviour, was how the director chose to end it. The play the film was based on ended somewhat differently, with Eliza marrying Freddy instead of running back to Higgins.
I would be hard pressed to label the film as a whole a romance but it is the romance of the film that has allowed it to endure. When I say romance i mean two things: the chaotic relationship between Eliza and Higgins and the exotic world or formal manners in the context of a very different aristocracy than we know today. In the first case we see a relationship evolve out of something like pity and ego. This unlikely coupling is not compelling enough on its own to keep our interest and so the story must take place in a context few of us have ever seen: the world of the rich and royal. If used poorly this context would only serve as a distraction form an otherwise lacking story line. In the case of Pygmalion both elements are balanced well.
This film is in the public domain, so I am comfortable posting the entire film for your viewing pleasure below. This particular version from youtube is the entire movie uninterrupted so the loading time may take substantially longer than expected. For a the film broken up into manageable portions for individual bandwiths, please click here