Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 17


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,402
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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).


Wendy Hiller
as Eliza Doolittle
Leslie Howard
as Professor Henry Higgins
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
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
View All

Critic Reviews for Pygmalion

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (16) | Rotten (1)

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

    Nov 6, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • A marvelous 1938 adaptation of the Shaw classic.

    Nov 6, 2007 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Pygmalion is good Shaw and a grand show.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • It is all brilliantly amusing and remarkably undated. And there is certainly no cause for complaint about the interpretation of the story and dialogue by the actors. It is flawless.

    Feb 7, 2018 | Full Review…
  • There's something special about this first English film version of George Bernard Shaw's play, before it became a musical

    Oct 25, 2008 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Pygmalion

  • May 07, 2016
    George Bernard Shaw was commissioned to write the screenplay to Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard's 1938 adaptation of his 1913 play "Pygmalion." A story so familiar to people as the basis of so many romantic comedies that have been updated and contemporarized, most notably as the musical "My Fair Lady" and more recently as the teenage comedies "She's all That" and "The Duff." Professor Higgins (Leslie Howard) spends his time around London listening to people talk writing their words down. He can pinpoint where a person comes from by their accent within two blocks. He meets Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) a flower girl with a heavy Cockney accent and crude behavior. Higgins makes the claim that he can pass her off as a Duchess in three months time. Colonel Pickering (Scott Sundersund) takes him up on this offer. Eliza soon comes to live in Higgin's house learning how to speak like a lady. The Greek mythology Pygmalion was a sculpter who fell in love with a statue he had carved who was then brought to life. Eliza is metaphorically "brought to life" and becomes Higgin's ideal woman. Wendy Hiller does a tremendous job with a marvelous Oscar winning script written by Shaw with new dialogue and scenes with help by W. P. Lipscomb and Cecil Lewis. Leslie Howard comes off arrogant and stuck-up, but he pulls it off extremely well. A wonderful film that was David Lean's first editing job.
    Joseph B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 17, 2014
    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. W Super Reviewer
  • Feb 13, 2014
    While most people will be familiar with the Our Fair Lady treatment of the sixties, this one has its charms as well...and it must succeed without a sugar coated soundtrack.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 12, 2011
    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 M Super Reviewer

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