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Funny Lady

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Funny Lady
Theatrical poster
Directed byHerbert Ross
Written by
Produced byRay Stark
CinematographyJames Wong Howe
Edited by
Music by
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • March 12, 1975 (1975-03-12)[1]
Running time
136 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$8.5 million[2]
Box office$40.1 million[3]
Publicity photo for Funny Girl to Funny Lady, a live TV special promoting the film, hosted by Dick Cavett (March 9, 1975)[4]

Funny Lady is a 1975 American biographical musical comedy-drama film and the sequel to the 1968 film Funny Girl. The film stars Barbra Streisand, James Caan, Omar Sharif, Roddy McDowall and Ben Vereen.

Herbert Ross, who helmed the musical sequences for Funny Girl (which had been directed by William Wyler), serves as the director. The screenplay, written by Jay Presson Allen and Arnold Schulman as based on a story by Schulman, is a highly fictionalized account of the later life and career of comedienne Fanny Brice and her marriage to songwriter and impresario Billy Rose. The primary score was by John Kander and Fred Ebb. The film was nominated for numerous awards including Golden Globe nominations for Streisand as Best Actress and Best Actor for Caan. Streisand revisited the soundtrack to the film in her 2016 concert.



Fanny Brice, now on the heels of finishing her Broadway show after its success has come and gone in the midst of the Great Depression, finds only flowers and a divorce decree from her estranged husband Nicky Arnstein. Fanny and her confidant Bobby Moore are now out of work, made worse by not having Florenz Ziegfeld around to make a new musical show. A meeting with Barney Baruch, her financial advisor leads her to his former secretary Billy Rose. Later on, when Fanny and Bobby go into nightclubs looking for material to "borrow", they encounter a torch song in “More Than You Know” that was actually written by Rose. Although irritated by his pushy nature in trying to offer to sell the song to her, she soon records the song at a studio before being shocked to read in the newspaper that she will star in a show by Rose called Crazy Quilt.

The show ends up getting $50,000 from Buck Bolton when Rose promises to cast Bolton's mistress Norma Butler as one of the stars. Despite having a big number for Fanny in “I Found A Million Dollar Baby In A Five And Ten Cents Store”, opening night proves to be a disaster in terms of collapsing sets and more. She thinks about leaving the production but stays when hearing that Billy borrowed money from mobsters that would kill him if he can't make the money back. The two work together on scaling the show down, which even see them exchange a scene of face powder dumped on both of them. The improved show opens in New York to applause and great reviews before Fanny sees Nicky backstage with a new ring on his finger from a rich woman (as told to her by Bobby). Billy, ready to travel to Fort Worth, Texas for a new show, offers to marry Fanny beforehand, which she accepts only to find that Billy was bluffing about borrowing money from the mob to keep her close.

The wedding party finds Billy treated roughly by Fanny's society friends before the honeymoon in Texas turns to bickering between the newlyweds. The next few years sees the two have careers so busy that they only talk to each other when they telephone their publicist at the same time. Billy does a show called Aquacade, featuring Eleanor Holm, a 1932 Olympic gold medalist as the star. Later on, Fanny encounters Bobby Moore and Norma Butler in Los Angeles and sees Nicky on the field of a polo game in Beverly Hills and feels that her friends tricked her. She tries to call Billy about Nicky to get her to join him but Billy cannot leave his Aquacade show. Fanny is seen by Nicky at her hotel that seems them reminisce about old times before remembering that Nicky hasn't asked about their daughter Frances (born six years ago). Fanny leaves the hotel and rides to the airport to Cleveland only to find Billy in bed with Eleanor. She taxis herself to the train station while Billy arrives to apologize. She states that her love for Nicky was gone for good while blaming herself for Billy's infidelity. She then asks him to leave her alone to wait for her train. Years pass among the two in the 1940s, with Fanny living in Los Angeles as the star of a radio program in The Baby Snooks Show while Billy serving as a writer for popular songs and plays. They meet each other again and he plays “Me And My Shadow", a song he tells Fanny he wrote about her marriage as one like a parade with no time for intimacy. He tells her about his recent purchase of the Ziegfield Theater in New York City and an idea for her to star in his new show, for which Fanny says she will think over as the two kiss and part once again.









Although contractually bound to make one more film for producer Ray Stark (Fanny Brice's one-time son-in-law), Streisand balked at doing the project. She told Stark "that it would take litigation to make her do a sequel." However, Streisand liked the script, which showed Fanny to be "...tougher, more acerbic, more mature...", and she agreed.[5][6]



The first to read for Billy Rose was Robert Blake. Other actors were mentioned, including Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, but ultimately James Caan was chosen. Streisand explained: "It comes down to whom the audience wants me to kiss. Robert Blake, no. James Caan, yes."[6]



Stark, unhappy with the scenes shot by original cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, lured an ailing James Wong Howe out of retirement to complete the film. It proved to be his final project, and it earned him an Academy Award nomination.[7]



Studio executives forced Ross to trim the film to a manageable 136 minutes before release. Much of Vereen's performance ended up on the cutting room floor, together with a recreation of Brice's Baby Snooks radio show and dramatic scenes involving her and her daughter.[8]

In addition to Howe, Oscar nominations went to Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie for Best Costume Design, Kander and Ebb for Best Original Song ("How Lucky Can You Get"), Peter Matz for Best Scoring of an Original Song Score and/or Adaptation, and the sound team. Streisand, Caan and Vereen all received Golden Globe Award nominations, as did Kander and Ebb and the film itself, but it was shut out of any wins in both competitions.[9]



Box office


Funny Lady opened Wednesday, March 12, 1975 and grossed $2,254,3851 in its first five days from 111 theatres to be number one at the US box office.[10][11] It went on to gross $40,055,897 at the U.S. and Canadian box office, making it the seventh highest grossing picture of 1975. It was one of Caan's most successful films at the box office.[12]

Critical reception


The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 30% of 20 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 4.8/10.[13]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "As long as Miss Streisand as Fanny is singing the blues, or singing anything else, Funny Lady is superb entertainment, but the minute she stops the movie turns into a concrete soufflé. It's heavy and tasteless ... Moments meant to be dramatic are embarrassingly bad."[14]

Roger Ebert gave the film one star out of four and called it "a big, messy flop of a movie that's almost cruel in the way it invites our memories of Funny Girl and doesn't match them."[15] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded two and a half stars out of four and wrote, "It takes few chances and delivers mostly what you'd expect ... What was missing, for me at least, was a sense of surprise, of unpredictability—the sort of wit or pacing that separates a memorable musical like Cabaret from the merely tuneful."[16]

Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote, "Streisand is in beautiful voice, and her singing is terrific—too terrific. It's no longer singing, it's something else—that strident overdramatization that turns a song into a big number. The audience's attention is directed away from the music and onto the star's feat in charging it with false energy. Streisand is out to knock you cold, and you get cold, all right." Kael also criticized the plot as "right out of those terrible forties movies in which couples who break up spend a lifetime thinking about each other, with encounters every five or ten years. And we get a double load of it here, with two graying ex-husbands."[17]

Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote, "Barbra Streisand was outstanding as the younger Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, and in Funny Lady she's even better ... However much of a letdown the plot becomes, there's no denying the superior integration of drama, comedy, show music and personal dramatic music en route."[2]

Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Barbra Streisand, like the picture, extends the characterization she launched so dazzlingly in Funny Girl ... What I find most impressive and likable about the performance is the softened, bittersweet maturity that Streisand lets us see in Fanny Brice. You sense that Streisand understands the star as well as she understood the impetuous young hopeful. An extraordinary presentation is the power and delight of both movies."[18] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called it a "lavish but uninspired" film that "seems to be celebrating stardom for stardom's sake. It's a joyless, mechanical Big Movie Musical."[19]

Caan thought there were "too many cooks messing around", although he liked his performance.[20]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Cinematography James Wong Howe Nominated [21]
Best Costume Design Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie Nominated
Best Scoring: Original Song Score and Adaptation or Scoring: Adaptation Peter Matz Nominated
Best Original Song "How Lucky Can You Get"
Music and Lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb
Best Sound Richard Portman, Don MacDougall, Curly Thirlwell and Jack Solomon Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated [22]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy James Caan Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Barbra Streisand Nominated
Best Original Score – Motion Picture John Kander and Fred Ebb Nominated
Best Original Song – Motion Picture "How Lucky Can You Get"
Music and Lyrics by Kander and Ebb
Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture – Male Ben Vereen Nominated



The soundtrack peaked on the Billboard Album Chart at number 6 and was certified gold.[23] A majority of the songs were written by Kander and Ebb.[24]

See also



  1. ^ Funny Lady at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  2. ^ a b Murphy, Arthur D. (March 5, 1975). "Film Reviews: Funny Lady". Variety. 20.
  3. ^ "Funny Lady, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 22, 2012.
  4. ^ Funny Girl to Funny Lady (1975) at IMDb
  5. ^ Waldman, p.120-121
  6. ^ a b Funny Lady history tcm.com, accessed March 4, 2009
  7. ^ Nickens and Swenson, pp.124-125
  8. ^ Nickens and Swenson, p. 129
  9. ^ Internet Movie Database listing, "Funny Lady" awards imdb.com, accessed March 3, 2009
  10. ^ "How Lucky Can You Get? (advertisement)". Variety. March 19, 1975. pp. 26–27.
  11. ^ "50 Top-Grossing Films". Variety. March 26, 1975. p. 9.
  12. ^ Vagg, Stephen (September 27, 2022). "The Stardom of James Caan". Filmink.
  13. ^ "Funny Lady". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 8, 2023.
  14. ^ Canby, Vincent (March 12, 1975). "Streisand as Fanny Brice (Continued)". The New York Times. 30.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 13, 1975). "Funny Lady". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  16. ^ Siskel, Gene (March 13, 1975). "Streisand's 'Funny Lady'". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 6.
  17. ^ Kael, Pauline (March 17, 1975). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 112, 114.
  18. ^ Champlin, Charles (March 14, 1975). "A Funny Girl Grows Up". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  19. ^ Arnold, Gary (March 12, 1975). "The Second Time Around, a Not-So-Funny 'Lady'". The Washington Post. B1.
  20. ^ Siskel, Gene (Nov 27, 1977). "James Caan's career hitting tough times". Chicago Tribune. p. e6.
  21. ^ "The 48th Academy Awards (1976) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on 2014-11-09. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
  22. ^ "Funny Lady – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  23. ^ Billboard Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine barbra-archives.com
  24. ^ "Tracks" Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine barbra-archives.com


  • Nickens, Christopher and Swenson, Karen (2001). The Films of Barbra Streisand, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-1954-1
  • Waldman, Allison J. (2001). The Barbra Streisand Scrapbook, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-2218-6