You're The Voice: Maria on When Adaptations Get It Wrong...
My Fair Lady
The film My Fair Lady has recently been in the media due to the remastering of the film. The film is based on Pygmalion, an Edwardian play about a man called Mr. Higgins attempting to transform Eliza through the power of phonetics. The ending of the text sees that Eliza is independent for Mr Higgins however, George Cukor neglects this, adding his own ‘hollywood’ ending.
The climactic confrontation scene that occurs in both the film and the play ends in My Fair Lady with songs from both Higgins and Eliza. The tone changes from being dramatic and aggressive to being cheeky, similar to a “petulant child” falling in love. This is especially shown in the song “I Did It (Reprise)” that is expressed by Higgins in Ms Higgins garden. His song reflects the childish relationship between the two singing alike children saying I’m the king of the castle and you’re the dirty rascal. Eliza’s character is passed off as a match for the childish Higgins. Despite the same quote from Eliza in both the movie and the play of “I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will” she contradicts this in the film as she stays with Professor Higgins romantically. She therefore, submits to being a “live doll” and “flower girl” forever. This film adaptation of Pygmalion dilutes Eliza’s character through the romance of Higgins. Due to this romantic tone the context of the climax is changed. This challenges Shaw’s view of Eliza as a women gaining “self-respect” as Eliza exclaims she does in Pygmalion.
This isn’t the only movie that has done this, other movies such as Divergent neglect fragments of Beatrice’s character such as her discomfort on topics involving intimacy and human relationships. This happens so much so in the book, Tris blushes merely by touching Four’s hand. This was not shown anywhere in the movie, which relied on the two to be presented as romantic from the start to draw out more of an audience and teenage appeal.
Through adapting Pygmalion, George Cukor has deserted the key ideas of Shaw, relying rather on the entertainment value more than anything else. The characters are diluted and although, themes like class are explored, the fundamental didactic message is removed. It is quite ironic that it has been removed due to what Shaw says about the play in the preface, he says “I delight in throwing it at the heads of the wiseacres who repeat the parrot cry that art should never be didactic. It goes to prove my contention that art should never be anything else.”
I would hope you would agree that sometimes Movie adaptions get it wrong.