Pygmalion (1938) Movie Review: Not Just a Greek Myth

By: Alex Phuong (A Toast) –

During the early stages of Hollywood history, censors did their best to remove as much inappropriate content as possible so that few people would be offended while watching films. Among the issues that they attempted to censor was poor language. It seems ironic, though, that a film made in 1938 would contain mild amounts of profanity. Then again, Pygmalion is no ordinary film because one of its main themes is the power of language. Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller star in this beloved adaptation of Bernard Shaw’s famous play, which ultimately became one of the Best Picture nominees of that particular year.

A Toast

This is definitely one of the best film adaptations of any famous literary work. Bernard Shaw adapted his own play for the screen, and won the Oscar for it! He added new scenes, such as the ballroom scene, but those changes only enhance the film, which could possibly explain why he won the award that year. The film overall is a great adaptation because the story of Eliza Doolittle and Professor Henry Higgins translated well to the silver screen. Part of this achievement occurred thanks to the Oscar-nominated performances from Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller. The film itself might not have won “Best Picture,” but it is still a very remarkable film.


Bernard Shaw’s famous story about the flower girl transformed into a fair lady has enchanted audiences ever since the original play opened in 1914. The subsequent film adaptation is one of the greatest black-and-white films ever made. It also led to one of the greatest movie musicals of all time, which was the Best Picture winner My Fair Lady (1964). Both films contain mild amounts of profanity, but that is because language is one of the main themes that Shaw wanted to convey. It is actually a blessing that Pygmalion made it past the Hollywood censors so that audiences would be able to enjoy one of the greatest stories ever written.

Pygmalion (1938) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: whenever Professor Henry Higgins is misogynistic

Take a Drink: every time Eliza Doolittle attempts to say, “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plains.”

Take a Drink: every time Eliza Doolittle repeats the line, “I’m a good girl, I am!”

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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