Pygmalion (1938, Anthony Asquith & Leslie Howard)

Dialogue exactly the same as in My Fair Lady, for the most part. Higgins here seems slightly less slimy, the ending slightly less foul than in the musical, but maybe that’s expectations talking. I suppose I enjoyed the musical more for the color cinematography and the songs; this version’s improved Higgins and more convincing/less glamorous Eliza wasn’t enough to tip the scales. Both versions could stand to lose Eliza’s drunk father.

Higgins here is Leslie Howard (49th Parallel), his pointless linguist friend Col. Pickering is stage actor Scott Sunderland and Eliza is Wendy Hiller (star of I Know Where I’m Going! and Major Barbara). G. Bernard Shaw adapted his own play for the movie, chose Wendy Hiller, and wanted Charles Laughton as Higgins. The two movie versions have the same cinematographer! Harry Stradling also shot Guys and Dolls, Johnny Guitar, The Pirate, Thrill of a Romance and a handful of Hitchcocks.

D. Ehrenstein:

Shaw, who saw film as the ideal medium for the piece, claims he never intended a romantic hookup for Higgins and Eliza. He even wrote a prose addendum to the script in which Eliza married and set up a flower shop, her antagonism toward Higgins continuing unabated. But he never wrote this epilogue as dialogue, and productions of Pygmalion, this film included, have always seen fit to end things on an upbeat note with a tantalizing hint of a budding love affair between master and pupil.