Aug 23, 2013

George Bernard Shaw Won An Oscar For Pygmalion

George Bernard Shaw Won An Oscar For Pygmalion, Pygmalion is a 1938 British film based on the George Bernard Shaw play of the same title, and adapted by him for the screen. It stars Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller.

The film was a financial and critical success, and won an Oscar for Best Screenplay and three more nominations. The screenplay was later adapted into the 1956 theatrical musical My Fair Lady, which in turn led to the 1964 film of the same name.

The Hungarian producer Gabriel Pascal wished to create a set of films based on Shaw’s works, beginning with Pygmalion, and went to see Shaw in person to gain permission to do so. Shaw was reluctant to allow a film adaptation of Pygmalion owing to the low quality of previous film adaptations of his works, but Pascal managed to convince him (on the condition Shaw retained full control over the adaptation) and later went on to also adapt Major Barbara, Caesar and Cleopatra and Androcles and the Lion.

The resulting Pygmalion scenario by Cecil Lewis and W. P. Lipscomb removed exposition unnecessary outside a theatrical context and added new scenes and dialogue by Shaw himself. Ian Dalrymple, Anatole de Grunwald and Kay Walsh also made uncredited contributions to the screenplay. A long ballroom sequence was added, introducing an entirely new character, Count Aristid Karpathy (seen both here and in the musical My Fair Lady, named as Professor Zoltan Karpathy – mentioned in the final scene of the original play, but with no name or onstage appearance), written wholly by Shaw himself. Against Shaw’s wishes, a happy ending was added, with Eliza fleeing Higgins with Freddy but then returning to Higgins’ home (though whether permanently or on her own terms is left deliberately ambiguous). Shaw and his fellow writers did, however, retain the controversial line “Not bloody likely!” from the playtext, making Hiller the first person to utter that swear word in a British film and giving rise to adverts for the film reading “Miss Pygmalion? Not ****** likely!”.