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Pygmalion Movie Review

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You need an iron bottom to sit through all 170 minutes of My Fair Lady, notwithstanding Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Theodore Bikel, Mona Washbourne, Jeremy Brett, Robert Coote, Gladys Cooper, Lerner and Loewe's score, Cecil Beaton's costumes, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But the original Pygmalion starring Leslie Howard, Wendy Hiller, Wilfrid Lawson, and Marie Lohr clocks in at a brisk 96 minutes WITH Shaw's blessing (he won an Oscar for collaborating on the screenplay). With his consent, a prologue and 14 additional sequences were included to make the story more like a movie and less like a play. Hiller was Shaw's personal choice as Eliza Doolittle. He would have preferred, however, to see Charles Laughton as Professor Henry Higgins, insisting that Pygmalion was NOT a love story and that Leslie Howard was hopelessly wrong (!) for the part. However, Shaw agreed to let the film close with a hint that Eliza will remain with Higgins, since he did have a shrewd understanding of Howard's enormous popularity at the boxoffice. The original Pygmalion is crisp and cool, the perfect blueprint for the hit Broadway musical of 1956 (My Fair Lady was based on this movie, not Shaw's 1913 play). Leslie Howard and Anthony Asquith co-directed with skill and assurance, in spite of the fact that producer Gabriel Pascal was breathing down their necks throughout filming. Moreover, leading lady Hiller had a real-life toothache during the ballroom sequence (especially written for the movie, at Asquith's insistence), which could not have been easy on a 26-year-old newcomer in a Schiaparelli gown with only one prior screen credit. None of the production woes show up in the shimmering finished product; Pygmalion was Britain's top moneymaker of the year, Howard went on to make an even bigger moneymaker in Hollywood (Gone with the Wind) and Hiller next starred in another Shaw adaptation, Major Barbara. Here's a trivia question for die-hard buffs. Q: Who was the cinematographer for both Pygmalion and My Fair Lady? A: Harry Stradling, Oscar winner for The Picture of Dorian Gray and My Fair Lady.

1938 96m/B GB Leslie Howard, Wendy Hiller, Wilfred Lawson, Marie Lohr, Scott Sunderland, David Tree, Everley Gregg, Leueen McGrath, Jean Cadell, Eileen Beldon, Frank Atkinson, O.B. Clarence, Esme Percy, Violet Vanbrugh, Iris Hoey, Viola Tree, Irene Browne, Kate Cutler, Cathleen Nesbitt, Cecil Trouncer, Stephen Murray, Wally Patch, H.F. Maltby; D: Anthony Asquith, Leslie Howard; W: W.P. Lipscomb, Anatole de Grunwald, Cecil Lewis, Ian Dalyrymple, George Bernard Shaw; C: Harry Stradling. Academy Awards ‘38: Best Adapted Screenplay; Venice Film Festival ‘38: Best Actor (Howard); Nominations: Academy Awards ‘38: Best Actor (Howard), Best Actress (Hiller), Best Picture. VHS, LV

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