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Old 06-05-2002, 04:53 PM
a35362 a35362 is offline
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My Fair Lady ending

I watched most of this movie the other day (I'd seen it before a number of times), and I'm still baffled by the ending. Why on earth does Eliza go back to him? The obvious answer is that they wanted a big happy ending. It's got to be one of the weakest endings I've ever seen. The whole second half of the movie is the aftermath of the ball and the question of what Eliza will do now. Higgins has more issues than a newspaper stand but he kinda makes sense in his own selfish way when he says that she could always marry or open the flower shop. The point is, Eliza really doesn't need him any more - and knows it, and can't stand the way Higgins treats her besides - and then he realizes he's fallen in love with her, as far as he can love anyone other than himself, and doesn't want her to leave. The only way that her staying is a happy ending is if the movie suddenly expects us to identify with this supremely self-centered jerk. If you cared about Eliza, you'd want her to get the hell away from this man and never look back, which appears to be where the plot is heading. Then she suddenly gives up, returns to the house, and Higgins settles into his chair with a nasty smug look on his face. And then I get a brain cramp.

Did the stage play end this way?
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  #2  
Old 06-05-2002, 05:22 PM
Fenris Fenris is offline
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Yes, but you're not quite right: It's a bit worse than you describe. She comes back. He settles into his chair and says "Eliza, fetch me my slippers" and off she goes!

The best explaination I've ever heard is that A) she cares for him. B) It's OK for her to come back, and it's even ok for her to "fetch his slippers" because she's won. And they both know it.

Look at each of their last songs. She sings the bold, uncompromising "Without You" where she strongly declares that she "can do bloody well without" Higgins. And means it. She can survive without him. She might not want to, but she could, and she would thrive.

He, on the other hand, sings the mawkish, sentimental "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" where he admits he can't go on without her.

Also, in the context of the musical, Eliza has only two choices of spouse: Freddy Einsford-Hill (a total simp. Utterly wet. A drip. Too low to kick and too wet to step on. The strong confident Eliza would crush him like the bug he was) or Higgins. (None of the above was not an option in a 1956 musical. Marriage was a must as a rule)

Higgins can stand up to her, but he'll NEVER be able to crush her, since they both know that she can go on without him, but he can't go on without her. She "fetches" his slippers as a way of letting him save face. On the other hand, about the 14th time Freddy started singing drivel like "Speak and the world is full of wonder/The heavens thunder/higher than before", she'd kill him. And who could blame her.

Apparently part of the problem is that Hepburn just wasn't as good of an Eliza as Andrews was. My parents, who saw it on stage with Harrison/Andrews on their honeymoon, said Julie Andrews was a much stronger Eliza than Hepburn was. And Andrews gives a little knowing...um...smirk(?) grin(?) as she goes off to get his shoes, a nuance that Hepburn misses (IIRC she smiles tenderly at him).

Given that interpretation, I don't think it's all that bad of an ending.

Now a BAD ending is the one in Fiorello! where Marie sings about how she's gonna "marry the very next man/ who asks me.../ And if he likes me/Who cares how frequently he strikes me/I'll fetch his slippers with my arm in a sling/Just for the privilge of wearing his ring!"

Or in Carousel, where Billy gets into Heaven because, being an inarticulate (if well-meaning) lout, he slaps his daughter across the face rather than talk to her about her shyness. After being decked, the kid asks her mom "Momma, is it possible for a hit to feel like someone loves you" (or words to that effect) and momma says "Yesl"

Fenris
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Old 06-05-2002, 05:51 PM
LurkMeister LurkMeister is online now
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George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, on which "My Fair Lady" is based, ends like this:

LIZA. Yes: you turn round and make up to me now that I'm not afraid of you, and can do without you.
HIGGINS. Of course I do, you little fool. Five minutes ago you were like a millstone round my neck. Now youre a tower of strength: a consort battleship. You and I and Pickering will be three old bachelors together instead of only two men and a silly girl.

Mrs. Higgins returns, dressed for [Eliza's father's] wedding. Eliza instantly becomes cool and elegant.
MRS. HIGGINS. The carriage is waiting, Eliza. Are you ready?
LIZA. Quite. Is the Professor coming?
MRS. HIGGINS. Certainly not. He cant behave himself in church. He makes remarks out loud all the time on the clergyman's pronunciation.
LIZA. Then I shall not see you again, Professor. Good bye. [She goes to the door].
MRS. HIGGINS [coming to Higgins] Good-bye, dear.
HIGGINS. Good-bye, mother. [He is about to kiss her, when he recollects something]. Oh, by the way, Eliza, order a ham and a Stilton cheese, will you? And buy me a pair of reindeer gloves, number eights, and a tie to match that new suit of mine, at Eale & Binman's. You can choose the color. [His cheerful, careless, vigorous voice shows that he is incorrigible].
LIZA [disdainfully] Buy them yourself. [She sweeps out].
MRS. HIGGINS. I'm afraid youve spoiled that girl, Henry. But never mind, dear: I'll buy you the tie and gloves.
HIGGINS [sunnily] Oh, dont bother. She'll buy em all right enough. Good-bye.

They kiss. Mrs. Higgins runs out. Higgins, left alone, rattles his cash in his pocket; chuckles; and disports himself in a highly self-satisfied manner.

The text of the play concludes with a long and rather rambling sequel in which Shaw makes it clear that Eliza marries Freddy, opens a flower shop, and they live more or less happily ever after.

I've never seen the original play on stage, but there was a movie version made in IIRC 1938 with Leslie Howard & Wendy Hiller which I had seen years ago. I don't remember how they handled the ending.
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Old 06-05-2002, 06:07 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Actually, there was a third option: She could have married Pickering.

Granted, he's old, but then Higgins is no spring chicken himself. Also Pickering insisted throughout that Eliza be treated with dignity and tried to curb Higgins's abuse of her. He probably would have treated her better than Higgins did.
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Old 06-05-2002, 06:49 PM
Fenris Fenris is offline
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But Pickering was a father-figure. I think it would have come across as weird for Pickering to marry her.
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Old 06-05-2002, 08:29 PM
Katisha Katisha is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by LurkMeister
I've never seen the original play on stage, but there was a movie version made in IIRC 1938 with Leslie Howard & Wendy Hiller which I had seen years ago. I don't remember how they handled the ending.
Haven't seen the movie, but I did see a production of Pygmalion at the Shaw Festival about ten years ago (quite a good one, too). It ended with Higgins laughing uproariously at the prospect of Eliza marrying Freddy -- which is in the original stage directions, although bartleby.com doesn't have it. Must be a different edition.

BTW, Higgins suggests that Eliza marry Pickering -- I don't remember if that was left in the musical -- and she'll have none of it, probably because, as Fenris suggests, it would be too weird.
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Old 06-06-2002, 01:51 AM
capacitor capacitor is offline
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Shaw wrote the long exposition at the end of the play mainly because the actors of the first production completely misunderstood what he was going after. The Henry Higgins actor even gave the Eliza Doolittle actor flowers at the end of the play.
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Old 06-06-2002, 01:53 AM
Dr. Rieux Dr. Rieux is offline
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It's a musical--of course it has a lame ending!
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  #9  
Old 06-06-2002, 06:19 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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I'm a big fan of Shaw.

Not only does Eliza not come back at the end of Pygmalion, Shaw actually wrote a lengthy afterward explaining how Eliza and Freddy got along after they got married.


But the thing that confuses the hell out of me is that Shaw wrote a screenplay version, which I thought was used for the Leslie Howard/Wendy Hiller film version -- which ends with Eliza coming back to Higgins!!! To add to the confusion, in the published script of My Fair Lady, Lerner or Lowe (I forget who wrote the "book") claims that he changed the ending, because he "didn't think Shaw got it right!" (!!!)

So I'm confused.
To put it in order:

1.) Shaw's play has Eliza saying she's going to marry Freddy

2.) The Afterword to Shaw's published play tells ho Eliza and Freddy got along after they got married

3.) Shaw's screebn treatment has Eliza going off with Freddie

4.) The Howard/Hiller film has Eliza sticking with Higgins. I'm not sure who's responsible for this.

5.) The Lerner and Lowe musical My Fair Lady has Eliza sticking with Higgins, with Lerner and Lowe taking credit for the change.

6.) The film of MFL also has Eliza staying with Higgins.


If I were Eliza, to quote Prof. Higgins' mother from alll versions, "I shouldn't have thrown the slippers at him. I'd have thrown the fire irons." I know Pepper Mill would feel the same way.
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  #10  
Old 06-06-2002, 07:03 AM
reprise reprise is offline
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I'm strictly a female female, and my future I hope will be...

What do you mean I got the wrong musical?

The auditions for "Annie Get Your Gun" are over there?

if I went to battle, with someone's herd of cattle
you'd have steak when the job was done...

but if I shot the herder, they'd holler bloody murder,
no you can't shoot a male in the tail like a quail


Excuse me Mr Director? Musicals are not supposed to be political statements?

As I recall the legend of Pygmalion upon which GBS's play was based, the ending was INDEED tragic...
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  #11  
Old 06-06-2002, 08:45 AM
Robot Arm Robot Arm is online now
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Quote:
Originally posted by Fenris
Yes, but you're not quite right: It's a bit worse than you describe. She comes back. He settles into his chair and says "Eliza, fetch me my slippers" and off she goes!
No. The final line is "Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?" If you're gonna debate the subtleties, at least start with the right facts.
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  #12  
Old 06-06-2002, 08:49 AM
Ukulele Ike Ukulele Ike is offline
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Ahhhh...interesting semantic point. A request for information, rather than a direct command to a subservient personality. No doubt Hank is planning to leap to his feet and scrummage for them himself after Eliza tells him they're under his bed.
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