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Pygmalion (The Criterion Collection)

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Editorial Reviews

Cranky Professor Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard) takes a bet that he can turn Cockney guttersnipe Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) into a "proper lady" in a mere six months in this delightful comedy of bad manners based on the play by George Bernard Shaw. This Academy Award-winning inspiration for Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady was directed by Anthony Asquith and star Howard, edited by David Lean, and scripted by Shaw himself. Criterion presents Pygmalion in a beautifully restored digital transfer.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Wendy Hiller, Leslie Howard, O.B. Clarence, Kate Cutler, Everley Gregg
  • Directors: Leslie Howard, Anthony Asquith
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: September 19, 2000
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780023536
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,481 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Pygmalion (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 12, 2005
Format: DVD-R
This superlative, award winning film adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's play is as delightful today as when it was first filmed, nearly sixty-five years ago. This ageless story is based upon Greek mythology in which an ivory statue of a maiden, Galatea, is brought to life by the prayers of its sculptor, Pygmalion. In the film, a professor of linguistics, Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard), takes a cockney flower seller, Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller), and bets that, within a matter of six months, he can turn her into a lady who can pass in high society without betraying her lowly origins.

Leslie Howard, wonderful in the role, is the quintessential Henry Higgins, playing him as an arrogant, aristocratic misogynist whose own mother (Marie Lohr) barely finds him tolerable. Henry makes his bet about his prospective success with Eliza with his friend, the kindly Col. George Pickering (Scott Sunderland), a wealthy gentleman who bankrolls the costs of Eliza's transformation from guttersnipe to royal pretender.

Wendy Hiller is perfectly cast in the role of Eliza, having a certain earthiness about her, which makes her so believable as the cockney upstart. Yet, she has enough of an incandescence about her, so as to make her believable in her transition from gutter to drawing room. Scott Sunderland is wonderful as Col. Pickering, the buffer between Henry and Eliza. Marie Lohr is excellent as Mrs. Higgins, Henry's exasperated mother. The scene in which Eliza has tea with Henry's unsuspecting mother and her guests is one of the funniest on the silver screen. Look also to a wonderful, comedic foray by Wildred Lawson, as Eliza's father, Alfred Doolittle.

All in all, this is a film that has withstood the test of time.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Terry Knapp on March 4, 2001
Format: DVD
The Criterion/Home Vision edition of this wonderful film is definitely the one to own. It is taken from a pristine print and the sound quality is amazingly vibrant for a film that is over sixty years old. The other available versions are all from worn public domain prints that are better left sight unseen and prove the old truism "you get what you pay for."
I have always been a fan of Leslie Howard: his delightfully cynical Higgins was no surprise. The real revelation for me was Wendy Hiller as Eliza. I was previously primarily familiar with her later roles, such as Paul Scofield's wife in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. She is absolutely luminous in this film.
If you are a fan of MY FAIR LADY, this is a must-have motion picture.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By JunQue on May 17, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Pygmalion is the predecessor to the musical My Fair Lady, but saying that, it undoubtedly rings true as the best version of the popular George Bernard Shaw play. This 1938 film version stars Leslie Howard as Professor Henry Higgins, a teacher and hobbyist of phonetics. Engrossed in this trade, he stumbles across a "cockney guttersnipe," flower peddler Eliza Doolittle (played by Wendy Hiller in her film debut). He takes on a bet with his new acquaintance, Colonel Pickering, and proclaims that in a short time, he can transform her into a proper lady and pass her off as "The Queen of Sheba."
What follows is rigorous training in dialogue and etiquette. From the famous `Marbles in Mouth' exercise ("I swallowed one!") to the final test at the Transylvanian Ball, hilarity and poignant antics ensue. The film shows us a budding friendship between teacher and pupil, even though said characters come within inches of striking the other down in tense moments of their relationship. Pygmalion shows "how deliciously low" Professor Higgins is. There is only one fault in his seemingly perfect facade (besides his swearing): his unsuccessful attempt to see Eliza not just as a guinea pig, but as a human being under her yowling dialect and uncouth manners. Henry's mother couldn't have put it more perfectly, saying that not once has he praised, petted, or admired Eliza for her work. Because of his lack of feeling towards Eliza, he gets a taste of his own medicine when Eliza threatens to forget and leave him.
Traditionally put in the Romance genre, Shaw never intended Pygmalion to be so. In an epilogue for the play that never came into the light, he writes that Eliza and Freddy do get married.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Dan Sherman VINE VOICE on August 10, 2000
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is an enchanting film for which George Bernard Shaw won an Oscar (which I believe he displayed proudly) for best screenplay after adapting the play "Pygmalion." It is true that the movie lacks the grand production values of "My Fair Lady," but it is much closer to the drama that Shaw had in mind. The dialogue is much richer than "My Fair Lady," which still managed to keep much of the language of the play and some of the movie.
Like many of Shaw's plays, it is built around his pet ideas -- here (in a simple form) the notion that class distinctions are not genuine and could be overcome through education. Unlike some of Shaw's plays which read like socialist tracts, this one has very human characters who keep your interest throughout (in contrast to "Major Barabara" which was a rather tedious movie).
For me, Wendy Hiller make a marvelous Eliza Doolittle. Although Leslie Howard is very good (and presumably what Shaw had in mind), it is hard to forget the bluster Rex Harrison -- a great actor himself -- brought to the role of Professor Higgins. Hiller brings a wonderful dignity and pathos to the role of Eliza Doolittle. The rest of the cast is very good and the sets are very authentically set in Edwardian England.
This is definite buy if you like Shaw, theatre in general, good movies from the 30s, or want to see a richer version of "My Fair Lady."
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