USA | 1945 | black and white | 103 minutes
Directors Mitchell Leisen
Notable cast Paulette Goddard, Ray Milland
Production Company Paramount Pictures
One of the many iterations of the Pygmalion narrative, Kitty diverges from the crowd of Hepburn musicals and the teenage makeover flicks in its wiliness to depict the more sinister side of the mentor and protégé arc. Kitty is a comedy, but it’s as sharp as it is unforgiving. As Kitty is passed from suitor to suitor, all beneath the watchful gaze of her stricken mentor Sir Hugh March, questions of grooming and emotional and physical abuse are left out in the open–even if they aren’t addressed directly by the film. Charming, funny, and filled with subtext, Kitty presents viewers with compelling arguments about the nature of the mentor-protégé relationship.
Read more about the Month of Mentorship Below
Kitty was the first black and white movie I fell in love with, and though it was only made in 1945, I’ve always felt it was much older because of this distinction in my memory. My favorite insult will always be “Gutter-snipe”, and I’ll always burst into laughter whenever I think of all the scenes in which Kitty’s husbands meet their demise (their deaths were always so random, so ridiculous, that you couldn’t help but laugh). I was never a fan of Sir Hugh March (it’s hard to romanticize that mess of a person) but I’ve always loved Kitty for being strong and for taking no prisoners.
Rather than similar movies, here are a list of other renditions of the Pygmalion story for your viewing pleasure. Most of these have a lot of the issues and themes that Kitty seems to have/bring up, but they’re all very fun in their own right, at least, from what I can remember.
I love this Hepburn musical of course, but I’ve always felt like Kitty was the stronger character, or at least, maintains a stronger sense of self throughout her transformation. It’s hard to compare though, and I’m not sure if it’s a fair comparison to make. At the end of the films, both women are so brutally sculpted into the image of a “finely bred woman”, that they seem like shallow renditions of their originally sassy selves.
That being said, I like to give their characters more credit than their source material lends them. Though it tries to fashion these strong women into demure pets for their mentors, the girls always seem to maintain a bit of that spark that made them so strong in the first place.
Basically, My Fair Lady follows the story of flower girl Eliza Doolittle as she transitions from resident gutter-snipe to a proper ladydoll, equipped with shinier dresses, a brand new accent, and inoffensive manners to go with her.
Why do I feel like the people who made this product wrote these movies…
Jokes aside, I love the costumes in this movie, along with the music and of course, Audrey as Eliza. Though not my favorite Hepburn role (that goes to Roman Holiday thank you very much), it’s a fun one, with a grand score to go along with it, even if the voice wasn’t Audrey’s herself (they replaced her singing without telling her initially. Can you believe that? or at least I heard that somewhere…)
(who knew there were so many My Fair Lady memes, I must use them all now…)
A modern rendition of the Pygmalion story, plus a parody of basically every makeover movie ever (or at least, I think it is, tell me its a parody, I hope it’s a parody…) I don’t remember much about She’s all that, just that it was funny, and she took off her glasses and suddenly, she was a goddess, but did I mention it was funny? Also, early 2000s rom com with early 2000s actors, what more could you ask for?
Nodame Cantabile (2009)
Okay, so I don’t know if Nodame is a variation on Pygmalion (I didn’t think it was when I first watched it but now that I look back I guess you could say that it might be. Maybe. Kind of?) but it’s a great movie.
It follows Nodame, an aspiring pianist who falls in love with Chiaki, a senior in her school whose talent for the piano almost outweighs his arrogance (almost). The movie follows the two after the TV show’s conclusion, but the duo are still a lot of fun to watch as they bicker and plot in this two part film. Before the movie though, you should watch the show. Also, Nodame’s love of food is my love of food. That is all.
Rather than an iteration of the Pygmalion story, Clueless is a modern take on Jane Austen’s Emma. Clueless, is of course, hilarious. Cher is arrogant, entitled and spoiled, and I should hate her but I don’t. How can anyone I ask? With her style, and her good-ish intentions, she’s the lovable rich girl that you can’t help but love.
Clueless is about her misguided attempts to hook her friends up with one another. If you haven’t watched it, then you’re one of the lucky ones because you get to see it for the first time, and then watch it a second time so you actually get all the themes that its touching upon. I still don’t think I’ve caught onto to it fully, which just showcases how timeless this film really is.