Monday, July 1, 2013

BOOK VS MOVIE: Pygmalion

This is an annoyingly common theme as of late. A popular film gets the Broadway treatment, but not just being confined to the stage. Oh no, it also gets converted into a musical. The number of odd films becoming musicals is...somewhat unsettling.

Probably one of the early dramas-to-musical conversions was Pygmalion becoming My Fair Lady. The thought of a rather vicious play being turned into a lighthearted musical just doesn't make any sense. (If it couldn't be any more clear, I have no burning desire to see My Fair Lady.)

Now George Bernard Shaw's play exceeded my anticipations of it. I was expecting a work containing a fair amount of biting wit. (It is a British production after all.) What I got was a play that featured a ruthless man (Prof. Henry Higgins) and his vulnerable victim (Eliza Doolittle).

Obligatory Hollywood ending aside, the adaptation by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard keeps the nasty spirit of Shaw's play very much alive. Thanks to Howard and Wendy Hiller's performances as Higgins and Eliza, the film is a sort of comedy of manners minus the comedy (and in some scenes the manners). It's a really great film.

Now which is better: the play or the film? Both certainly have their perks. Shaw's dry wit is seen even in the stage directions in the play. But Howard and Hiller bring Shaw's cynical world to life in the film. So what to say? I suppose this'll have to suffice.

What's worth checking out?: Both.

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