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Pygmalion [circa 1963]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0023
Run Time
0h 18m 46s
Date Produced
"Pygmalion" is a ballet choreographed by Ruth Page, loosely based on the Ancient Greek myth.  It premiered in January 1963 in Park Ridge, Illinois, with music by Franz von Suppé (adapted and orchestrated by Isaac Van Grove) and costumes and scenery by André Delfau.  

This film represents a rehearsal of the ballet with props, featuring Kenneth Johnson and Patricia Klekovic, as well as Orrin Kayan and Ellen Everett.
The film opens with a shot of a stage, where a man (Pygmalion, the sculptor) stands cleaning and shaping various female body parts he has sculpted.  He dances a sort of pas de deux with one of these pieces, a nearly-full body.  Nearby, his completed female sculpture, Galatea, stands on a platform partly shrouded in a cloth.  The camera cuts forward a bit to Pygmalion standing by Galatea, admiring his work.  Phryné is standing beside her as a model, and breaks character to embrace him, attempting to reclaim his attention from the statue.  Standing in a series of arabesques wrapping her arms around him, and then sitting in a series of floor poses, she continues trying but fails to capture his attention.  He grows fed up with her interruptions, places a cloth over his work, and walks away while drinking from a bottle.  She chases after him.

Pygmalion's assistant Ganymede then enters Pygmalion's workshop and, finding himself alone with Galatea, dances a mischeivous solo during which he excitedly peeks under her cloth covering.  Once he has completed it and rests on the floor, Phryné reenters and tells Ganymede how Pygmalion has been ignoring her and tries to convince him to hide the statue, thereby allowing her to take its place.  He agrees to help her only after she blows him a kiss and allows him to kiss her foot.  Then, after Ganymede carries Galatea offstage, Phryné dances a jubilant solo.

Soon, Ganymede returns to indicate where he hid Galatea.  The two then hear Pygmalion approaching, so Ganymede helps Phryné up on the pedestal to take her place.  He throws the shroud on her head, but stays underneath it with her until Pygmalion appears and swats him away.  He then contentedly examines his "statue."  Without thinking, he allows Phryné to drink from the bottle as well and, startled, watches as his statue seems to come to life.  

Pygmalion then dances a somewhat astonished pas de deux with his Phryné.  Afterwards, at her request, he dances a solo while she sits and watches.  At this point in the rehearsal, the camera cuts to a different cast, though it continues from the same point in the narrative.  Phryné (now a different dancer) then takes her turn dancing a solo while Pygmalion (also a different dancer) looks on.  Once her solo is complete, the two lay on the ground together and Ganymede reenters with the bottle in hand.  He dances a drunken solo around the couple, who appear to be asleep (and are again being danced by the original couple).  Ganymede then wakes them up, and Phryné playfully bats at Pygmalion, still groggy, with a pillow.  She then embraces Ganymede and begins to dance with him, apparently happy to see him.  Pygmalion becomes jealous and tries to bat at them with the pillow, but to no avail.

Next, the film cuts forward a bit to an angrier Pygmalion brandishing an umbrella at Phryné and Ganymede.  She tries to stand in the way but Pygmalion stabs his assistant in the stomach.  Then, approaching Phryné with it, he falls into a pas de deux in which both partners have a grip on the weapon.  She successfully wrests it from him and then taunts him with it for a few moments.  When he grabs it back, she tosses pillows at him until he drops it again.

The film then cuts to a different scene, in which Galatea has been returned to her pedestal, this time holding a garland of some sort.  Ganymede hides behind her as Pygmalion rediscovers her, after which Phryné enters and stands beside her, causing him to compare the two and realize that Phryné had tricked him into thinking her the live statue.  He also finds his assistant hiding behind the statue and reprimands both.  But for some reason, Phryné's response is to begin dancing in place, thereby encouraging first Ganymede and then even Pygmalion to join her in the merry jig.  With continued energy, Phryné fetches the statue shroud to dance with, leaving the two men to dance with each other.  This leads into a brief solo on her part, which blends back into a group dance, with the shroud figuring centrally.  

Eventually, Phryné is wrapped up entirely and Pygmalion carries her offstage lovingly.  This leaves Ganymede to similarly pick up Galatea the statue, kissing it as if it were a real girl.  This seems to mark the end, although there is very brief footage afterwards of another woman (not in dance attire) approaching the statue.  The film ends there.
Additional Credits
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Johnson, Kenneth (is performer)
Klekovic, Patricia (is performer)
Kayan, Orrin (is performer)
Everett, Ellen (is performer)