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'Pygmalion,' 1938

Sometimes, an original comedy can seem naked after it becomes an all-out musical comedy. That's not the case watching the supremely pleasurable 1938 version of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" -- a much livelier, funnier and more touching movie than the 1964 big-screen embalming of "My Fair Lady," its smash musical offshoot. Leslie Howard is so deft as Henry Higgins (he also co-directed with Anthony Asquith), Wendy Hiller so delicious as Eliza Doolittle, and David Lean's editing so musical, you keep waiting for the characters to burst into song anyway. "Pygmalion" is about how remaking a woman remakes a man, more so in the movie than in Bernard Shaw's original play. Shaw gave the filmmakers the OK to suggest a happy ending for Professor Higgins and Eliza -- and "My Fair Lady" took its emotional cues from the movie's finale.
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