The life of Fanny Brice, famed comedienne and entertainer of the early 1900s. We see her rise to fame as a Ziegfield girl, subsequent career and her personal life, particularly her relationship with Nick Arnstein.
Matchmaker Dolly Levi travels to Yonkers to find a partner for "half-a-millionaire" Horace Vandergelder, convincing his niece, his niece's intended, and his two clerks to travel to New York City along the way.
Early twentieth century New York. Fanny Brice knows that she is a talented comedienne and singer. She also knows that she is not the beauty typical of the stage performers of the day, she with skinny legs and a crooked nose among other physical issues. So she knows she has to use whatever other means to get her break in show business, that break so that she can at least display her talents. With the help of Eddie Ryan who would become her friend, Fanny is able to get a part in a novelty act in a vaudeville show, the renown from which eventually comes to the attention of famed impresario Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.. Fanny does become one of the Ziegfeld Follies most popular acts, despite she almost getting fired after her first performance by defying Flo's artistic vision for her closing number. Beyond stage success, Fanny also wants a happy personal life, most specifically with the suave Nicky Arnstein, a gambler in every respect of the word. Fanny loves him and loves that he loves her ... Written by
...Perhaps not. But for nearly 2 1/2 hours in "Funny Girl," Barbra Streisand at least makes a convincing case for herself.
Forget about the television airings you've seen. Throw away your old video cassette copy. Instead, see the restored, widescreen, road show version now in limited theatrical release. It is the ONLY way to truly appreciate the talents of Ms. Streisand and, more notably, the film's brilliant director, William Wyler.
Movies today no longer look like movies. The highest compliment one can pay "Funny Girl" is that it is a grand, glorious MOVIE in the truest sense. Wyler's brilliance is never more evident than in his glorious treatment of the "Don't Rain on My Parade" sequence, the stunning camerawork of "The Swan," and the incredibly effective set-up of the "My Man" finale.
Ms. Streisand doesn't really give a performance; she simply is Barbra. Every "Barbra-ism" that we have come to know, love and hate over the years is already crystallized at this point. Her brashness can be off-putting, but by the end of the movie, one is completely won over by the sheer enormity of her talent and presence. Yes, you can see the beginnings of the blind egomania that has marred her performances for the last 20-odd years (to be generous); but you cannot deny her brilliance, either. And to see her extraordinary face in full-screen close up is breathtaking. Kudos to the director, lighting director, and make-up artist for making Streisand appear so wonderful in this.
From the sweepingly orchestrated titles to the high-drama impact of the showstopping finale, this is Entertainment with a capital E. About 20 minutes could have been trimmed, and exactly why Omar Sharif was cast remains a mystery; but at the end of the picture, these quibbles are trivial. Did I laugh? Yes. Did I cry? Yes. Was I thrilled, excited, entertained? You betcha.
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