Dedicated to classics and hits.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pygmalion (1938) d. Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard

Wendy Hiller as Eliza Doolittle in the 1938 film version of Pygmalion: BEFORE as cockney flower girl.

Pygmalion (1938)
d. Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard
Criterion Collection #85

  Yet another thoroughly enjoyable film I would have never, ever watched without the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus.  This play by George Bernard Shaw is better known in America under the name My Fair Lady- which starred Audrey Hepburn as the woman/project at the heart of the film.

 However, this version was actually written by George Bernard Shaw himself and shows it.  The dialogue is sparkling- standing up to 80 years of subsequent film comedy.  The idea at the center of Pygmalion: that anyone can be trained to "pass" as something they are not, is a deep subject and one that continues to be relevant today.
Wendy Hiller as Eliza Doolittle in the 1938 film version of Pygmalion: AFTER.

 In this version, there is no dilution of Professor Henry Higgens' aggressive intellectualism.  He is a fervent apostle for the know-it-all style of early 20th century science- the attitude that intellectuals had before two World Wars shook their faith in the ability of humans to accomplish anything they wanted.  Eliza Doolittle, here played by Wendy Hiller is a Cockney flower girl from Covent Garden who Higgens takes under his wing to win a bet with noted Sanskrit expert Colonel Pickering.

 For me, it was Doolittle's initial cockney accent that was worth preserving- it is a true cinematic classic, like the voices I used to do with my ex wife when we wanted to poke fun at something unapologetically English.  As Henry Higgens, Leslie Howard is fantastic, he is an arrogant prick to be sure, but he's an arrogant prick who doesn't give a fuck about making waves in English society and that is a winning trait.

  Pre World War II English cinema is terra incognita on my cultural map and it is one of the areas where Criterion Collection is active.Pygmalion was very rewarding and easy to watch- it is recommended.

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