Pygmalion – play and Oscar winning film script

In 1912, George Bernard Shaw wrote the play that was to become his most famous work.

George Bernard Shaw
Shaw’s major plays
GB Shaw quotes
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Pygmalion, which was later adapted and turned into the musical, My Fair Lady.

It was about a phonetics professor who attempts to train a cockney flower girl to speak like a lady so she will be accepted in high society.

Pygmalion Cover 1913 play by George Bernard Shaw

Shaw later worked with writers, Cecil Lewis and WP Lipscomb to create a movie script for Pygmalion. He had reluctantly agreed to a film version being made on the condition that he retained control of the adaptation.

There were a few differences as scenes were added and removed to suit the different medium. Shaw was unhappy that they wanted to change the plot to provide a happy ending.

They reached a compromise where the characters were happy at the end of the film but it was uncertain what the future would hold for them.

Along with the writing team, Shaw was awarded an Oscar for writing an adapted screenplay. The film was also nominated for Best Picture and the lead actors were nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress.

However, Shaw wasn’t interested in public awards and said: “It’s an insult for them to offer me any honour, as if they had never heard of me before – and it’s very likely they never have. They might as well send some honour to George for being King of England.”

My Fair Lady – Oscar winning musical

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In 1908, Shaw’s play Arms and the Man was turned into an operetta and renamed The Chocolate Soldier. It was very successful but Shaw hated it and would not allow any of his other work to be set to music.

However, after his death, his film script of Pygmalion was adapted to produce a theatre musical called, My Fair Lady, in 1956. The musical was then adapted into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn in 1964.

This movie adaption also won several Oscars and brought Shaw’s work to the attention of millions of people who might not otherwise have heard of him.

Summaries of more of Shaw’s major plays

George Bernard Shaw
Pygmalion and My Fair Lady
Shaw’s major plays
GB Shaw quotes