Funny Face

"Essential"

Funny Face Review


High powered fashion editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson), in a moment of epiphanic abandon in Stanley Donen's s'wonderful, s'marvelous Funny Face declares "Let's give 'em the old pizzazz." And Funny Face does just that, giving audiences one last blast in 1957 of the stylish charm of the great MGM musicals, which after that point were dead in the water (the bloated Gigi from 1958 exempted). After then the only original movie musicals churned out of Hollywood would be the penny-dreadful Elvis Presley musicals in the 1960s.

The only thing is that Funny Face was not an MGM musical -- it was produced by Paramount. MGM's Roger Edens was shopping around a film version of a play written by Leonard Gershe concerning the life of his friend, fashion photographer Richard Avedon and desperately wanted Audrey Hepburn as the photographer's love interest. But Hepburn was under contract to Paramount and Paramount wouldn't lend her out. Fred Astaire ambled into the mix, but he was no longer contracted to MGM and was freelancing. Eventually MGM's Arthur Freed magnanimously loaned out key figures in MGM creative staff to Paramount -- director Stanley Donen, musical director Adolph Deutsch, arranger Conrad Salinger, choreographer Eugene Loring, cinematographer Ray June -- and the MGM-at-Paramount unit was in place, where it proceeded to put together one of the finest movie musicals of all time.

Funny Face is a zippy satire of fifties fashion magazines, the beatnik fad, and pop culture flourishes all wrapped up in an intoxicating package of bright, effervescent George and Ira Gershwin tunes ( "Funny Face," "S Wonderful," "How Long Has This Been Going On," "Clap Yo Hands," "He Loves and She Loves" and "Let's Kiss and Make Up" -- although there were three new songs composed by Rogers Edens and Leonard Gershe, too -- "Think Pink," "Bonjour Paris," and "On How to Be Lovely"). But Donen also adds a smart and zippy style to the proceedings with dazzling set pieces ("Think Pink," "Bonjour Paris," and an amazing five-minute fashion montage with Avedon himself offering up supermodel shots of Hepburn), taking the film out of the studio (as in On the Town) and onto the streets of Paris (movie musicals' city of choice since the days of Ernst Lubitsch).

The story (not that it makes any difference) involves mousy Greenwich Village bookseller Jo Stockton (Hepburn) who meets up with fashion photographer Dick Avery (Astaire). In a presaging of Hepburn's role in My Fair Lady some years down the line, Avery suggests that Jo come with him on a fashion shoot to Paris, where he plans to turn her into a glamorous fashion model. Jo is reluctant but agrees in order to meet her spiritual leader Emile Flostre (Michel Auclair), the father of "Emphaticalism." Ultimately, the empathy is all Astaire's as he transforms Hepburn from a Plain Jane bookworm into a fashion plate with love conquering all.

The stories of Funny Face and My Fair Lady are similar but not Hepburn's charm in them. Hepburn is entombed in the heavy pomp of My Fair Lady but in Funny Face she is a gamine sprite, singing her own songs, dancing in black tights in a left bank coffee house, and elegantly modeling Givenchy fashions, including a jaw-dropping stairway descent in a flowing red gown. Astaire at 58 is still nimble and full of his well-patented charm and verve, particularly during an enchanting dance routine with an umbrella and a raincoat. And let's not forget Kay Thompson, in her one great film role. Thompson, singing coach for Judy Garland at MGM and later writer of the Eloise series of children's books, shows off her singing, acting, and dancing chops here -- she holds her own with Astaire in the wacky beatnik parody number "Clap Yo Hands."

At the end, when Donen turns the film into a soft-focus arboreal fantasy and Hepburn and Astaire, all shimmering white, embrace and head down a beatific lake in a dreamlike raft, the charm of all the great musicals drift away too, making you want to enter the screen and go with them. As Thompson declares in the film: "Banish the Black! Burn the Blue and Bury the Beige! ... Just think Pink!"

Now who's laughing?



Funny Face

Facts and Figures

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 13th February 1957

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: Paramount Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Fresh: 27 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Roger Edens

Starring: as Jo Stockton, as Dick Avery, Kay Thompson as Maggie Prescott, as Pr Emile Flostre, Robert Flemyng as Paul Duval, Bess Flowers as Fashion Show Spectator

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.