Pygmalion (1938) starring Leslie Howard & Wendy Hiller

This isn’t exactly like My Fair Lady (sorry, if you’re looking for that)! There are NO songs (plus or minus, depending on the viewer), it’s in B&W, and considered a more realistic version of George Bernard Shaw’s story (inspired by Greek myth of Pygmalion and Galatea). In contrast to Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza, Brit actress Wendy Hiller (who some of you may know from the beloved Canadian Anne of Avonlea mini-series) is more of a plain Jane, though tall and elegant in bearing (when she has to be). Leslie Howard’s Prof. Higgins is younger (a plus, IF you want to play up the romance angle) than Rex Harrison. His speech is less showy, more matter-of-fact, yet still cutting (esp. towards Eliza).

Howard also co-directed this film (as I learned from TCM); he’s much more than Ashley from Gone with the Wind.  Though his looks and usual style of acting are NOT my favorite, you have to respect a guy w/ such a long line of (mostly well-made) films. There are a few points in this film where my attention drifted (just being real- it’s a ’30s film after all). I think fans of this story (and classics in general) should give it a watch. 

There’s lots of women has to make their husbands drunk to make them fit to live with. -Eliza explains at tea (to Mrs. Higgins’ guests)

Walk? Not bloody likely. I’m going in a taxi. -Eliza declares to Freddy when he offers to walk her home 

Some Trivia re: the Film:

Shaw was the first person to have won both the Academy Award and the Nobel Prize. 

The first British film to use the word “bloody” in its dialogue; this word was an expletive , so considered extremely vulgar.

In the British version, Howard says “damn;” in the American one, he says “hang” or “confounded.” This was a year before David O. Selznick fought the Hays Office over permission for Clark Gable to say “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” at the end of Gone with the Wind (1939).

The scene in which Eliza accidentally swallows a marble during an elocution lesson does not appear in the original play. During rehearsals for this scene, a pained expression came over Hiller’s face; when she spat out the marbles she had in her mouth she said, “Leslie, I’ve swallowed one!” Howard replied: “Never mind, there are plenty more.” This caused such amusement among the crew that it was added to the film, then later to its musical version, My Fair Lady.

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Fleabag (2016)

I watched this Brit show (on Amazon Prime) last weekend; there are 6 eps (about 30 mins long). It’s NOT for everyone (TV-MA), BUT does have some interesting/unique components. We’ve ALL seen angry/unlikable/complicated men as protagonists (incl. in comedies) over the past 10 yrs or so. However, there aren’t many female characters like Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a 20ish working woman living in London and dealing w/ grief (incl. that of her BFF/business partner). “Fleabag” is the real-life nickname of Waller-Bridge. She also created a play on which this show is based. Fleabag breaks the fourth wall (as seen prominently on House of Cards); this brings the viewer in closer to the story.

Fleabag struggles to keep her small cafe open, breaks up w/ her sensitive/songwriter BF- Harry (Hugh Skinner), then hooks up w/ different men (one of her coping mechanisms, she admits). Waller-Bridge can be BOTH beautiful and awkward at the same time; she has a flawless face and is tall and slim. Yet she also has a somewhat long/big nose (which gives her an unique look). One of her men is played by an unusually handsome actor (Ben Aldridge). Sidenote: The way others reacted to their pairing reminded me of when Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) dated character played by Jon Hamm on SATC.

Fleabag has an awkward relationship w/ her father (Scottish actor Bill Paterson) and hates her godmother turned step-mom (Waller-Bridge’s close friend-actress Olivia Colman). Talk about step-mom from Hell- Colman portrays a self-absorbed artist and villain V well here (a departure from her usual roles)! The MOST interesting/complicated relationship is between Fleabag and her seemingly “perfect” older sister, Claire (Sian Clifford). Unlike Fleabag’s aimless approach to life, Claire (Sian Clifford) has to control everything (incl. her own “surprise” b-day party). There is deep love between these women, though they have such different personalities. Both women wonder if they sre “bad feminists”- something V rare for a TV show! Claire is married to an American art dealer, Martin (comedian Brett Gelman), who comes off as creepy and pathetic. I think Martin provides some of the more (obvious) humor.

The Heiress (1949) starring Olivia de Havilland & Montgomery Clift

In the late 1800’s, the wealthy Sloper family- surgeon Dr. Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson), his daughter Catherine (Olivia de Havilland), and the doc’s recently widowed sister- Lavinia Penniman (Miriam Hopkins)- live in a spacious house at Washington Square in Manhattan. Despite lessons in various social graces, Catherine is awkward and shy; in contrast, her deceased mother had a LOT of charm and beauty, as her father and their social circle often comment. Lavinia attempts to get her niece to be more social and hopefully meet the a suitable man to marry. Enter handsome, smooth-talking Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), recently returned from Europe.

Morris dances w/ Catherine at a party, NOT minding her clumsy feet, and manages to put her at ease briefly. He comes to call for several days in a row; she is surprised and nervous, even skipping out one morning hoping to avoid him. In no time, Morris declares his love to Catherine and asks to for her hand in marriage. She is thrilled, b/c she NEVER expected anything like this to happen to her. The air-headed/hopeful Lavinia (who serves as chaperone) greatly approves of the man, though cold/aloof Dr. Sloper is suspicious of Morris’ motives. The young man has potential, BUT doesn’t have a job. Above all, the father can’t fathom that a man would want the daughter that he continually puts down. Dr. Sloper, after learning more re: Morris’ character, refuses to give his permission for the marriage. Catherine, angry yet determined, forms a plan to elope ASAP. 

As one viewer wrote:

There are no easy answers in this movie. You can think Dr. Sloper is right about Morris and only wants to protect his daughter, or you can see his actions as those of a vindictive man who blames her for the death of his beloved wife (in childbirth). Morris could be a fortune hunter, or he could be a man who does care for Catherine, in his own way, and would make her happy. Or all of the above. 

After seeing The Heiress on Broadway, de Havilland approached William Wyler about directing her in a screen adaptation (which won 4 Oscars). He agreed and encouraged Paramount execs to purchase the rights from the playwrights (Ruth and Augustus Goetz) and have them also write the screenplay. They were asked to make Morris less of a villain than in the play and the original novel (Washington Square by Henry James); the studio wanted to capitalize on Clift’s reputation as a romantic lead. Wyler’s idea was to pair de Havilland with frequent co-star Errol Flynn, but studio execs favored Clift (w/ a more subtle acting style). Though Flynn and de Havilland had great chemistry, execs felt that the actor’s real-life womanizer rep would’ve worked against him.