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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
Great early Streisand...a reminder of how Babs was before egomania set in...
Mention the name BARBRA STREISAND to me today and I can only think of the insane utterances she's made about President Bush and all Republicans and the war in Iraq and her stance as a Democratic activist. But back in '68, I was justly impressed with her work under William Wyler's firm direction in FUNNY GIRL.
Watching it again, I haven't changed my opinion. Her Fanny Brice is indeed as perfectly in character as any musical star performer in memory and she carries the film to heights it never would have reached with a less gifted actress/singer. Sad to say, this can't be said of her later characterizations.
I don't understand criticism leveled at OMAR SHARIF as Nicky Arnstein. He looks magnificent, even if his singing voice leaves something to be desired, and plays his role extremely well. The chemistry between him and Streisand is evident, giving credence to the rumor of an affair while filming. Their duet in "You Are Woman, I Am Man" is deliciously staged in a fancy restaurant setting. In fact, all of the settings glow under the technicolor lights.
The score is riddled with fascinating show tunes, all of them sung and staged in the best manner possible. I particularly enjoyed the early Roller Skate Rag where Streisand's comic abilities are shown off to such advantage. The supporting players do outstanding jobs, including Kay Medford as her Jewish mother and Walter Pigeon as Flo Ziegfeld whose first encounter with Streisand is played for laughs while establishing the boundaries between them. Poor Anne Francis is given only limited screen time, but even she is worth watching in a role that must have suffered from too much editing. And Streisand's first big scene in a Ziegfeld musical is hilarious, hiding a pillow beneath her wedding gown to the extreme shock of Mr. Ziegfeld while the chorus girls can hardly stifle their laughter.
Highly recommended as a film musical that put Streisand on the map. She even looks beautiful in certain close-ups and camera angles, glowing under the artistry of cameramen skilled in photographing her imperfect face in the most flattering manner. As noted by others, the hairdos and styling do not always suggest the 1920s period, but in a musical where so much talent is on display, it hardly matters.
What is really striking is that Streisand is so confident and assured in every phase of her performance that it is hard to believe this was her first chore before the cameras. How much of this is due to the craftsmanship of William Wyler, I don't know. Her work here has to be ranked as one of the greatest acting "firsts" ever for a musical star performer. Streisand fully deserved the Oscar and should not have been in a tie with the much over awarded Katharine Hepburn's LION IN WINTER--as annoyingly false as any of Hepburn's later performances were bound to be.
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