Pygmalion (1938)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Pygmalion Photos

Movie Info

Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller star in Anthony Asquith's and Leslie Howard's classic version of George Bernard Shaw's satiric comedy. Henry Higgins (Howard) is an upper class phonetics professor who encounters low-class guttersnipe Eliza Doolittle (Hiller) and bets his friend Colonel Pickering (Scott Sunderland) that he can pass her off as a duchess within three months. Pickering accepts Higgins' bet, with Eliza readily agreeing to the proposal, since she will get to live in Higgins' fancy home. Once in Higgins' house, Eliza is subjected to intensely repetitive phonetics lessons in an effort to transform her Cockney accent into the speech of proper English. Things are a bit rocky at first, with Eliza blurting out "Not bloody likely" at a tea party. But when Eliza is presented at the Ambassador's Ball, she is not only accepted as a princess but is the talk of the ball, everyone in attendance commenting on her charm, beauty, and poise. Relishing his success, Higgins abruptly dismisses her. But Eliza has fallen in love with Higgins and is aghast at her cursory treatment by him. She tells him, "I sold flowers. I didn't sell myself. Now you've made a lady of me, I'm not fit to sell anything else." When Eliza leaves, Higgins realizes that he loves her too, but Eliza has announced to Higgins that she plans to marry high society playboy Freddie Eynsford-Hill (David Tree).
Classics , Comedy , Drama , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Criterion Collection


Wendy Hiller
as Eliza Doolittle
Leslie Howard
as Professor Henry Higgins
Wilfred Lawson
as Alfred Doolittle
David Tree
as Freddie Eynsford-Hill
Wilfrid Lawson
as Alfred Doolittle
Marie Lohr
as Mrs. Higgins
Scott Sunderland
as Col. George Pickering
Jean Cadell
as Mrs. Pearce
Everley Gregg
as Mrs. Eynsford-Hill
Leueen McGrath
as Clara Eynsford-Hill
Esme Percy
as Count Aristid Karpathy
Violet Vanbrugh
as Ambassadress
Cathleen Nesbitt
as Old Lady
Iris Hoey
as Ysabel
Viola Tree
as Perfide
Irene Browne
as Duchess
Wally Patch
as Bystander
H.F. Maltby
as Bystander
Stephen Murray
as Police Constable
Leucen MacGrath
as Clara Eynsford-Hill
George Mozart
as Bystander
Ivor Barnard
as Bystander
Kate Cutler
as Grand old lady
Anthony Quayle
as French Hairdresser
Cecil Trouncer
as 1st Policeman
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Critic Reviews for Pygmalion

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (4)

Smartly produced, this makes an excellent job of transcribing George Bernard Shaw, retaining all the key lines and giving freshness to the theme.

Full Review… | November 6, 2007
Top Critic

A marvelous 1938 adaptation of the Shaw classic.

Full Review… | November 6, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Above all, the film is remarkable in that it strengthens rather than dilutes Shaw's insistence on language as the vital instrument of power and oppression.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Pygmalion is good Shaw and a grand show.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

There's something special about this first English film version of George Bernard Shaw's play, before it became a musical

Full Review… | October 24, 2008
Urban Cinefile

This authorized version is the most successful adaptation of George B Shaw to the big screen, one that maintains the text's acerbic wit and droll humor and is splendidly acted by Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller in Oscar-nominated performances.

Full Review… | June 14, 2007

Audience Reviews for Pygmalion

The great original adaptation of Shaw's satiric play, which would be remade as the classic musical My Fair Lady many years later in 1964. Clever and convincing, this version relies on a sharp, well-written dialogue and superb performances by Hiller and Howard.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


Fan of the English language? Fancy yourself as your local arbiter for the British vernacular? Well then this adaptation of Shaw's is just your ticket and man how she sparkles, with more wit per scene, per exchange, than a season's worth of 30 Rock. Howard blueprints Higgens for the generations but Hiller imbues Dolittle with such humanity as to shimmer like a jewel.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

It's just very hard for me to take this story as a comedic one. The themes, social commentary, sexual politics, mental manipulation and disturbing physical abuse are so dark that the films lighter moments ring completely false and artificial. I had the same issue with Stanley Kubrick's "Lolita." While you get some great Shaw dialogue, excellent performances from Wendy Hiller and Leslie Howard and a decent amount of thought provoking character interaction, the comedy nearly undermines the entire picture. "Pygmalion" is a story (not a film) that fans of films like "Antichrist," "3 Women," "The Servant" etc. will enjoy.

Steven Carrier
Steven Carrier

Super Reviewer

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