pygmalion and My Fair Lady

Writing takes time. It takes a certain time of brain space, too. I have been really busy with work. I wish that work would back off a little…I would rather be reading and thinking and writing than doing all this JOB stuff.

But the job stuff pays the bills.

I had a chance to listen to PYGMALION by Shaw. That was a great play! All kinds of good stuff, about class tension and social climbing and the place of women and the importance of manners in society.

On the back of the package, it says “PYGMALION inspired the award-winning film and stage productions of Lerner and Loewe’s musical, MY FAIR LADY.”

I went and got MY FAIR LADY so that I could compare the two. I like musicals.

But you know, this was pretty different than the play. The musical added songs which are very nice. But the story itself is such a practical story…I mean, it is about getting this work done–Higgins has to teach Eliza how to speak.

In PYGMALION, Eliza learned very fast and had a quick ear.
In MY FAIR LADY, Eliza couldn’t hear the sounds at all until Professor Higgins essentially tortured her for not saying it right. I thought that change to be rather implausible, he didn’t even TRY to explain how sounds are formed. Then, after he’s starved her and been cranky to her all day, she gets it and they dance around singing “The Rain in Spain.” Then, he demands that she stay up and study some more.

And she goes all googly and sings “I could have danced all night.”
WHAT?! the implication is that she is in love with Professor Higgins.
I fail to see the attraction. He hasn’t done anything nice for her, and he’s done a lot of mean things.

It doesn’t make sense to me.

In PYGMALION, Shaw treats marriage as a much more practical exercise. In fact, one of the lines that are in common show his point of view, “In tottenham court, I was above this. I sold flowers, not myself.”

That line seems incongruous in the musical. The musical has all kinds of massively sappy moments of LOOOOOVVVEEE!!! Freddie is head over heels, and Eliza is exstatic over Higgins, and Higgins has grown accustomed to her face.

It doesn’t hang together quite as well.

I think the play was much more complimentary to Eliza, giving her talents that are to her credit. But the musical makes her a patsy, whose only major selling point is how pretty she is.

It’s too bad.

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