powered by AFI
Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle is selling her flowers to theater goers when she is warned by friends that a policeman is writing down everything she says. After confronting the man, she learns that he is not a policeman, but Professor Henry Higgins, a phonetics scholar. As it turns out, one of the theater goers is Colonel Pickering, a fellow scholar. Higgins lectures the group that their speech pattern is the only thing separating them from the upper classes in England and that he could pass off a poor flower girl like Eliza as a princess with a mere six months of training. The next day, Eliza arrives at Higgins' home, offering to pay for speech lessons. Pickering challenges Higgins to make good on his boast and Higgins takes the bet. While at first hesitant about Higgins' intentions, Eliza agrees to move into the professor's home and begins her intensive instruction. Her father, dustman Alfred Doolittle, comes to Higgins' home, seeking a financial agreement with the professor in exchange for his daughter's virtue. Rather than becoming upset, Higgins is fascinated by the dustman's original views on morality and agrees to pay him. After months of long lessons and abuse, Higgins decides to test Eliza's progress at a lunch held by his mother. Eliza's "small talk" makes a sour impression on the group, except for young Freddy Eynsford Hill, who is immediately smitten by the young girl. After several more months of lessons to smooth out Eliza's rough edges, Higgins prepares the flower girl for her greatest test: a ball at the Transylvania embassy. At the ball, Higgins runs into one of his ex-students, Count Aristid Karpathy, who makes his living by blackmailing social climbers of low origins. Karpathy pronounces Eliza a true fake; he declares that instead of an English social climber, she is Hungarian, and of royal birth. Reveling in their success at the ball, Higgins and Pickering congratulate each other, with no thought of Eliza. Later that night, Eliza confronts Higgins about her future, but he shows little concern, so she leaves the house. Outside she meets Freddy, who proclaims his love for her. The next morning, Higgins and Pickering frantically search London for Eliza, only to return to Mrs. Higgins' home empty-handed. Doolittle joins them there, declaring that Higgins has ruined his life by writing a rich American that he was the most original thinker in Europe. The rich American then died, leaving Doolittle a small fortune that forced him into the "middle-class morality" from which he has run all his life. Eliza then appears and tells Higgins that she plans to marry Freddy and teach what Higgins has taught her. After Eliza tells him off, Higgins declares himself a genuine success, as he has made a truly independent woman of her. Eliza leaves with Freddy and Higgins returns home, only to discover how much he truly misses her. As he listens to a recording of her first appearance at his house, Eliza enters the room. Nonplussed by her return, Higgins leans back in his chair and asks: "Where the devil are my slippers, Eliza?"