Very few people know that 2012 will mark a 100 Birthday of one of the most unique plays written by George Bernard Shaw titled "Pygmalion" (1912). In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was known as the creator of a female sculpture that came to life. The fascination with Greek mythology impacted quite a number of English playwrights of the time, Mr. Shaw being one of them.
In the play, Mr. Henry Higgins, the early 20th century Phonetics professor and the perfectionist of the standard English pronunciation, makes a bet with his colleague, Pickering, that it would take him 6 months to turn a bedraggled street girl, Eliza Doolittle, into a refined lady simply by teaching her to speak properly. Exactly how did Eliza Doolittle come to being?
The image of Eliza Doolittle was inspired by a famous British actress of the time, Mrs. Patrick Campbell (Mrs. Pat, born Beatrice Stella Tanner). Though very talented and successful as an actress, Mrs. Pat's background had only basic acting training. Her speech in particular had been criticized by George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde as it revealed much of her lower-class upbringing.
Despite his harsh criticism, George Bernard Shaw saw a lot of potential in Mrs. Pat, and over time their relationship supposedly resulted in a romance, mostly nurtured through letters. The character of Eliza Doolittle was created specifically for Mrs. Pat as a hint on her social pretensions that in many ways hampered her career.
The play was first staged in London on April 11, 1914 at Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree's His Majesty's Theater and starred a 49-year-old Mrs. Pat as Eliza Doolittle. Since then, the play has been staged around the world, and has been adapted as a musical My Fair Lady and a film of that name.
For more information please read the following:
Below is a trailer for the 1964 My Fair Lady movie starring Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle. Enjoy!