Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Double bill of Shaw and Wendy Hiller

Monday I spent my evening at the BFI (as you do...) - went there to see a double bill of Bernard Shaw adaptations, namely 1938's Pygmalion and 1941's Major Barbara. Both were scripted by George Bernard Shaw himself (in collaboration with others) and both have Wendy Hiller as the heroine.

While I found "Major Barbara" a bit long and at moments a bit dull, I was fascinated by "Pygmalion". It was just marvellous comedy, perfect timing, great performances. I had started with some reservations because I find most british films of the period slightly lacking in sparkle. And although I thought Leslie Howard was a tad too young for Higgins, there isn't any reason other than Rex Harrison why he can't. But the cherry on the cake was a wonderful Eliza from Wendy Hiller. This was a discovery. I knew her name, of course, and her face from a few Hirshfeld caricatures - now I have truly became a fan of her cheekbones.

As for "Major Barbara", despite the wonderful cast (Hiller, Rex Harrison, Deborah Kerr, Robert Morley), it does suffer of Shaw's excess of preachiness and didn't do much for me. Probably it wasn't helped by all the problems in production with the director (who couldn't direct) and his dependences his "assistants to director" (one of them being David Lean). As I'm going to see the current theatrical production at the National quite soon, am quite curious to see how they compare. And to complete another "double bill" of Shaw, Peter Hall's revival of "Pygmalion" is also in my to see list.

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