Funny Girl (film)
Post-Oscar release poster
|Directed by||William Wyler|
|Produced by||Ray Stark|
|Written by||Isobel Lennart|
|Based on||Funny Girl
by Isobel Lennart
|Music by||Jule Styne (Music)
Bob Merrill (Lyrics)
|Cinematography||Harry Stradling, Sr.|
|Editing by||William Sands
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||149 minutes
Funny Girl is a 1968 romantic musical film directed by William Wyler. The screenplay by Isobel Lennart was adapted from her book for the stage musical of the same title. It is loosely based on the life and career of Broadway and film star and comedienne Fanny Brice and her stormy relationship with entrepreneur and gambler Nicky Arnstein.
In 2006, the American Film Institute ranked the film #16 on its list commemorating AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals. Previously it had ranked the film #41 in its 2002 list of 100 Years ... 100 Passions, the songs "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade" at #13 and #46, respectively, in its 2004 list of 100 Years ... 100 Songs, and the line "Hello, gorgeous" at #81 in its 2005 list of 100 Years ... 100 Movie Quotes.
Set in and around New York City just prior to and following World War I, the story opens with Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice awaiting the return of husband Nicky Arnstein from prison, and then moves into an extended flashback focusing on their meeting and marriage.
Fanny is first seen as a stage-struck teenager who gets her first job in vaudeville and meets the suave Arnstein following her debut performance. They continue to meet occasionally over the years, becoming more romantically involved as Fanny's career flourishes and she becomes a star. Arnstein eventually seduces Fanny, who decides to abandon the Follies to be with Nicky.
After winning a fortune playing poker while traveling aboard the RMS Berengaria (a ship that actually existed and was acquired by Britain after WW1 as compensation from Germany for the sinking of the Lusitania) Nicky agrees to marry Fanny. They move into an expensive house and have a daughter, and Fanny eventually returns to Ziegfeld and the Follies. Meanwhile, Nicky's various business ventures fail, forcing them to move into an apartment. Refusing financial support from his wife, he becomes involved in a bonds scam and is imprisoned for embezzlement for eighteen months.
Following Nick's release from prison, he and Fanny briefly reunite long enough to agree to separate.
- Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice
- Omar Sharif as Nick Arnstein
- Kay Medford as Rose Brice
- Anne Francis as Georgia James
- Walter Pidgeon as Florenz Ziegfeld
- Lee Allen as Eddie Ryan
- Mae Questel as Mrs. Strakosh
- Gerald Mohr as Branca
- Frank Faylen as Keeney
- Tommy Rall (uncredited) as the Prince who partnered Barbra Streisand in the Swan Lake ballet parody
- Chris Cranston (uncredited) as Ziegfeld girl
- Nancee Charles (uncredited) as Ballet Dancer
- "If a Girl Isn't Pretty" - Fanny, Rose, Mrs. Strakosh
- "I'm the Greatest Star" - Fanny
- "Rollerskate Rag" - Fanny, Rollerskate Girls
- "I'd Rather Be Blue Over You (Than Happy With Somebody Else)" - Fanny
- "Second Hand Rose" - Fanny
- "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" - Fanny, Follies Ensemble
- "People" - Fanny
- "You Are Woman, I Am Man" - Nick, Fanny
- "Don't Rain on My Parade" - Fanny
- "Sadie, Sadie" - Fanny, Nick
- "The Swan" - Fanny
- "Funny Girl" - Fanny
- "My Man" - Fanny
- "Exit Music"
In the 1985 book Barbra Streisand: The Woman, the Myth, the Music by Shaun Considine, composer Jule Styne revealed he was unhappy with the orchestrations for the film. "They were going for pop arrangements," he recalled. "They dropped eight songs from the Broadway show and we were asked to write some new ones. They didn’t want to go with success. It was the old-fashioned MGM Hollywood way of doing a musical. They always change things to their way of vision, and they always do it wrong. But, of all my musicals they screwed up, Funny Girl came out the best."
Because the songs "My Man," "Second Hand Rose," and "I’d Rather Be Blue" frequently were performed by the real Brice during her career, they were interpolated into the Styne-Merrill score.
Isobel Lennart originally wrote Funny Girl as a screenplay for a drama film entitled My Man for producer Ray Stark, but when he offered it to Mary Martin, she suggested it might work better as a stage musical. Lennart consequently adapted her script for what eventually became a successful Broadway production starring Barbra Streisand.
Although she had not made any films, Streisand was Stark's first and only choice to portray Brice onscreen. "I just felt she was too much a part of Fanny, and Fanny was too much a part of Barbra to have it go to someone else," he said, but Columbia Pictures executives wanted Shirley MacLaine in the role instead. MacLaine and Streisand were good friends and shared a birthday; both actresses rolled their eyes at the idea. Stark insisted if Streisand were not cast, he would not allow a film to be made, and the studio agreed to his demand.
Mike Nichols, George Roy Hill, and Gene Kelly were considered to direct the film before Sidney Lumet was signed. After working on pre-production for six months, he left the project due to "creative differences" and was replaced by William Wyler, whose long and illustrious award-winning career never had included a musical film; he originally was assigned to direct The Sound of Music. Wyler initially declined Stark's offer because he was concerned his significant hearing loss would affect his ability to work on a musical. After giving it some thought, he told Stark, "If Beethoven could write his Eroica Symphony, then William Wyler can do a musical."
Streisand had never heard of Wyler, and when she was told he had won the Academy Award for Best Director for Ben-Hur, she commented, "Chariots! How is he with people, like women? Is he any good with actresses?" As for Wyler, he said, "I wouldn’t have done the picture without her." Her enthusiasm reminded him of Bette Davis, and he felt she "represented a challenge for me because she’s never been in films, and she’s not the usual glamour girl."
Styne wanted Frank Sinatra for the role of Nick Arnstein, but the actor was willing to appear in the film only if the role was expanded and new songs were added for the character. Stark thought Sinatra was too old and preferred someone with more class like Cary Grant, even though Grant was eleven years older than Sinatra. Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Sean Connery, David Janssen, and James Garner were also considered. Egyptian Omar Sharif was cast to star opposite the Jewish Streisand after Wyler noticed him having lunch in the studio commissary. When the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt broke out, studio executives considered replacing Sharif, but both Wyler and Streisand threatened to quit if they did. Later, the publication of a still depicting a love scene between Fanny and Nick in the Egyptian press prompted a movement to revoke Sharif's citizenship. When asked about the controversy, Streisand replied, "You think the Egyptians are angry? You should see the letter I got from my Aunt Rose!" Anne Francis was cast in a new role as the lead chorine in the Ziegfield Funnies.
Principal photography began in August 1967 and was completed by December. During pre-recording of the songs, Streisand had demanded extensive retakes until she was satisfied with them, and on the set she continued to display her perfectionist nature, frequently arguing with Wyler about costumes and photography. She allegedly had so many of her scenes with Anne Francis cut before the film's release that Francis sued to have her name removed from the credits, but lost. Streisand later claimed she never told Wyler to cut anything & the final film reflected his choices, not hers. Francis later said "I have no feud with Barbra. But doing that film was like Gaslight. What infuriated me was the way they did things - never telling me, never talking to me, just cutting. I think they were afraid that if they were nice to me, Barbra would have been upset."
"Hello, gorgeous" are the first words uttered by Streisand in the film. After winning the Academy Award for Best Actress, Streisand's first comment when handed the Oscar statuette was "Hello, gorgeous."
Since the release of the film, "Hello, gorgeous" has been referenced in several films. The line appeared as the name of Michelle Pfeiffer's salon in Married to the Mob. The line was also uttered by the character Max Bialystock in the film and Broadway show The Producers, but the inflection used by Zero Mostel in the 1968 film is different from that used by Streisand in Funny Girl. The line is also regularly peppered through popular culture.
In her book Talking Back: Images of Jewish Women in American Popular Culture, Joyce Antler writes that Streisand has created several rich images of a Jewish woman within film, Funny Girl being one of them. In Funny Girl, Antler writes, Streisand is able to portray a character that is obviously Jewish, and in this role she creates a space for the intelligent Jewish woman to be depicted. When Barbra Streisand appeared in Funny Girl in 1968, for the first time, a Jewish woman was on screen with Jewish features, a Jewish name and Jewish mannerisms. In this role the Jewish woman was presented as smart, comedic, beautiful and talented.
In his review in Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert called Streisand "magnificent" and added, "She has the best timing since Mae West, and is more fun to watch than anyone since the young Katharine Hepburn. She doesn't actually sing a song at all; she acts it. She does things with her hands and face that are simply individual; that's the only way to describe them. They haven't been done before. She sings, and you're really happy you're there." But he thought "the film itself is perhaps the ultimate example of the roadshow musical gone overboard. It is over-produced, over-photographed and over-long. The second half drags badly. The supporting characters are generally wooden . . . That makes the movie itself kind of schizo. It is impossible to praise Miss Streisand too highly; hard to find much to praise about the rest of the film."
Variety said Streisand makes "a marked impact" and continued, "The saga of the tragi-comedienne Fanny Brice of the ungainly mien and manner, charmed by the suave card-sharp Nick Arnstein, is perhaps of familiar pattern, but it is to the credit of all concerned that it plays so convincingly."
David Parkinson of the film monthly Empire rated the film four out of five stars and called it "one of those films where it doesn't really matter what gets written here - you will have made your mind up about Babs one way or the other, but for the rare uninitiated, this is a fine introduction to her talents."
The film currently holds a 92% 'Fresh' rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus stating "[Barbra] Streisand elevates this otherwise rote melodramatic musical with her ultra-memorable star turn as Fanny Brice."
Awards and nominations
In addition to Streisand's Oscar win as Best Actress, the film was nominated in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Medford, Best Cinematography for Stradling, Jr., Best Film Editing for Sands and Winetrobe, Best Scoring of a Musical Picture for Walter Scharf, Best Original Song for the title tune by Styne and Merrill, and Best Sound.
Streisand won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and nominations went to the film, Wyler, and Styne and Merrill for the title song.
Lennart won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical, and Wyler was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing - Feature Film.
The film was released on Region 1 DVD on October 23, 2001. It is in anamorphic widescreen format with audio tracks in English and French and subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Georgian, Chinese, and Thai. Bonus features include Barbra in Movieland and This Is Streisand, production information, and cast filmographies. The Blu-ray edition made its world debut on April 30, 2013 with the same bonus material as the DVD release. The Blu-ray release was also concurrent with Streisand's most recent film, The Guilt Trip.
- "FUNNY GIRL (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 1968-10-03. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- "FUNNY GIRL (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 2002-01-03. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- "Funny Girl, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
- Funny Girl at Turner Classic Movies
- Taylor, Theodore, Jule: The Story of Composer Jule Styne. New York: Random House 1979. ISBN 0-394-41296-6, pp. 226-249
- Scott, Vernon (1967-08-25). ""Honey West" now in "Funny Girl"". The News-Dispatch. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- Barbra Streisand archives
- Kleiner, Dick (1968-11-27). "Knotts Goes Romantic". The Sumter Daily Item. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- "Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give A Damn", AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes, American Film Institute.
- Antler, Joyce (1998). Talking Back: Images of Jewish Women in American Popular Culture. University Press of New England. pp. 10, 77, 172.
- Chicago Sun-Times review
- Variety review
- Empire review
- Funny Girl at Rotten Tomatoes
- "The 41st Academy Awards (1969) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
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- Funny Girl at the Internet Movie Database
- Funny Girl at AllMovie
- Funny Girl at Box Office Mojo
- Funny Girl at Rotten Tomatoes
- Funny Girl at Metacritic