Pygmalion

Pygmalion is a 1938 British film based on George Bernard Shaw's play of the same name, and adapted by him for the screen.


The film was a financial and critical success, and Shaw won an Oscar for best screenplay.


His screenplay was later adapted into the 1956 theatrical musical My Fair Lady, which in turn led to the 1964 film of the same name, with Audrey Hepburn & Rex Harrison.


Shaw and his fellow writers included the controversial line from the play "Not bloody likely!", making Wendy Hiller the first person to ever use that swear word in a British film. 


The film's crew included future director David Lean, on his first major editing job.

Lean directed the montage sequence of Higgins teaching Eliza.


Leslie Howard, Prof. Higgins, a co-director on this picture, was born Leslie Stainer in 1893 and his early years were spent in Austria and he spoke only German for the first few years of his life.


The family eventually moved to Britain and he joined the army in World War I. In 1917, he was diagnosed with severe shell-shock and was invalided out and sent back to England, where his mother advised him to take up acting as therapy.


So he took her maiden name of Howard and embarked on a successful movie and theatre acting career. He became known as the perfect Englishman (slim, tall, intellectual and sensitive), a part that he played in many movies.


His screen persona could probably be best summed up by his role as Sir Percy Blakeney a foppish member of society in The Scarlet Pimpernel(1934).


One of his friends was Humphrey Bogart and Howard used his influence to insist that Bogart repeat his stage performance in the movie version of The Petrified Forest (1936).


That role proved to be Bogart’s big break & he was so grateful that he named his daughter Leslie in Howard's honor.


But for most people, the character that Leslie Howard will be remembered for is that of Ashley Wilkes, the disillusioned intellectual Southern gentleman in Gone with the Wind (1939).


Describing one of his Gone with the Wind costumes: He said,“I look like that sissy doorman at the Beverly Wilshire, a fine thing at my age”.


Leslie Howard privately felt that he was much too old to play Ashley Wilkes (the character was supposed to be about 21 at the start of the film). He wore extra make-up and a hairpiece to make him appear younger. Selznick was only able to persuade him to take the part by offering him a producer credit on Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939).


In 1943, during WWII, German fighters shot down the KLM commercial airplane he was in, killing everyone aboard. He was 50.


Eliza Doolittle is played by Wendy Hiller, who was born in1912, and soared to stardom at the age of 21 in Love on the Dole. Wendy toured with the play and made her London debut a year later. She became the toast of the London that year, and went on to earn rave reviews and Broadway acclaim.


And though the film credits stated that this movie introduced Hiller, she had in fact already appeared in a 1937 film (Lancashire Luck). But in this, only her 2nd film, Hiller was nominated for an Oscar as Best Leading Actress.


And in a career that spanned more than 50 years, she would win 2 more Oscar nominations and a win for Best Supporting Actress in 1966 for A Man for All Seasons.


In 1971, Queen Elizabeth appointed Ms. Hiller to the Order of the British Empire and she then became Dame Wendy Hiller. She died in 2003 at the age of 90.


The British film director Anthony Asquith was called 'Puffin' by his family, a nickname given him by his mother, who thought he resembled one. Puffin was also the name his friends called him throughout his life.


Asquith's first love was music, but he lacked any musical talent.  So he veered into the new field of motion pictures. He was active in the British film industry from the late silent movie period until the mid-1960s.


Asquith's most successful post-war film was his 1952 adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest.


Ironically, Puffin's father, while serving as Home Secretary, ordered Oscar Wilde's arrest for his homosexual behavior. Another irony of the situation is that Asquith himself was gay, but his father never knew.


The British Academy Award for Best Music is named the Anthony Asquith Award in his honor.


And look  for Patrick Macnee as he makes his his screen debut as an extra in this film. You may remember him as John Steed in TV’s The Avengers.