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There are not enough superlatives in the world to bestow on Barbra Streisand
for her rags-to-riches portrayal of 20s Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice.
To say she gives the single most triumphant musical performance ever
showcased on the silver screen could be close. I am constantly bowled over
with each viewing at how the 26-year-old Brooklyn novice ever pulled off
this incredible stunt. Cinderella playing Cinderella. Even the finicky
Hollywood powers-that-be, who NEVER use untried screen talent for such a
weighty role (Julie Andrews and "My Fair Lady" come to mind), knew that
nobody but Barbra could inhabit this part. She won the Oscar, naturally,
and it was befitting that the newcomer should share this honor with perhaps
the greatest screen legend ever, Katharine Hepburn.
Barbra's Fanny Brice first conquered Broadway where she lost the Tony award to another irrepressible talent, Carol Channing, for "Hello Dolly!" She got her revenge of sorts years later when she won the coveted screen role of Dolly due strictly to her auspicious debut in "Funny Girl." Transferred to celluloid, the movie loosens its bustles quite a bit and grants more breathing room for Barbra to expand her natural comic and dramatic talents both keenly and intimately amid the elaborate sets and costumes.
The timing of this film couldn't have been better for Streisand. The late 60s ushered in a new legion of stars. The rash of talent coming to the forefront purposely lacked the super-model good looks and incredibly-sculpted physiques of their predecessors. Audiences now clamored for realism...human imperfection. What less attractive guys like Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino did for the men, Barbra did for the distaff side. She dragged out her own Cinderella version, making a virtue of her odd looks and gawky gait while laying out her two big trump cards -- she was a supreme song stylist and a gifted, self-deprecating cut-up.
Hardly ever off screen, Streisand totally immerses herself in the role of chorus clown-turned-Ziegfeld headliner, weaving a spell around each and every song she touches. From the stubbornly optimistic "I'm the Greatest Star" to the profoundly touching "My Man", the actress matures Brice into the glowing swan of her own dreams, while exposing a deep, personal vulnerability she never recaptured (or allowed) again on screen -- to her detriment.
Despite heavy critical lambasting, I still say exotically handsome Omar Sharif was indeed the consummate choice to play wanderlust husband and card shark Nicky Arnstein. Polished, prideful and totally in his element as the global-gambling playboy, one can believe the ungainly Fanny (or Streisand, for that matter) placing this glossy god on a pedestal. It may not appear to be much of a stretch (in real life, Sharif was a world-class bridge player), but he owns the part as much as delightful Kay Medford does as Brice's droll Jewish mama. Everyone else, however, is pretty expendable. It's been said that Anne Francis blamed Streisand for her supposedly top featured role being butchered. If it's true, she has an open-and-shut case. Francis was left with a nothing part.
Highly fictionalized and weak as biography, Streisand champions above the sometimes grandiose material from the moment she utters her first classic words: "Hello, gorgeous!" And so she is.
Tour-de-force for Barbra Streisand, reprising her Broadway triumph and taking over the screen as 1930s Ziegfeld singer/comedienne Fanny Brice. Streisand's incredible self-assurance and clowning poise was enough to win her the Best Actress Oscar AND tick off most of Hollywood (few in the business were prepared for someone like Streisand in 1968, except maybe those familiar with her TV work, but the results here show she didn't care what anyone thought of her). The sets look phony, the script is contrived, and Omar Sharif is somewhat miscast as husband Nick Arnstein (Sharif is wonderful in the early stages, but his wet, red eyes and mincing baby-talk grow incredibly weary); however most of the song numbers are fabulous, and Barbra is at her best when delivering a high-powered number. She's tough and unyielding even while doing a comedic bit, but during an emotional song she lets her guard drop a little (not enough to become truly vulnerable, just enough to let us share her pain). The film doesn't exhaust one the way some musical extravaganzas can; the camera-work is uneven and some sequences are overlit, but it has lots of spirit and dazzle. Most importantly, it's a film that remembers it is about a woman and a man, and never allows the show-biz glitter to suffocate the characters. *** from ****
Every time a film is made about a real-life figure, particularly a show business figure, people love to complain that the movie is not accurate regarding the facts of that person's life. If the truth be told, if movie biographies were strictly about the facts, no one would go to see them, because for the most part, the facts don't make for great entertainment and Fanny Brice is no exception. The 1968 musical FUNNY GIRL has been maligned for years because it is not a very accurate representation of the facts of Fanny Brice's life. If you want to learn about Fanny Brice's life, read a biography or go on the internet, but if you want to see an amazing movie musical spotlighting a legendary performer at the beginning of her amazing career, then you can't beat FUNNY GIRL, the 1968 musical based on the 1964 Broadway musical that made Barbra Streisand a star. Streisand tied with Katharine Hepburn for the Best Actress Oscar for this charismatic star turn as the young girl from Henry Street who becomes a big star of the Ziegfeld Follies and has a heartbreaking romance with a charming gambler named Nick Arnstein, played by Omar Sharif. Streisand is in practically every frame of this film and never makes you wish otherwise...one of the great performances in the history of cinema...whether she is defying Florenz Ziegfeld by refusing to appear in the finale or chasing an ocean liner to be with Nick, Streisand gives the one-woman performance of a lifetime here. Directed by Oscar-winner William Wyler, Streisand is lovingly photographed and effectively showcases the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill score, which includes classics like "People" and "Don't Rain On My Parade". Some changes have been made in the score from the stage musical but Streisand makes it all work and the finale "My Man" is just devastating. It's not an accurate biography of the vaudeville legend, but as a dazzling and entertaining movie musical, it's hard to top this one.
Barbra Streisand made one the biggest debuts in the history of films
playing Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. She also won an Oscar as best
actress of 1967 for her efforts. Although this musical bogs down a bit
in the second half, Streisand keeps the viewer glued to the screen with
her brilliant portrayal of this great star. Terrific musical numbers
come one after another, and Streisand shifts gears effortlessly between
comic gems like "I'm the Greatest Star" and "The Roller Skate Rag" and
signature tunes like "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade." Her
closing rendition of "My Man" is very effective (and was copied by
Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues). Big and bright and splashy, Funny
Girl is one of the last great, old-style musicals produced in
Hollywood. Omar Sharif, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Kay Medford, Mae
Questel, Frank Faylen, and Lee Allen co-star. Meford won a supporting
Oscar nomination as the mother. Pidgeon should have been nominated for
his role as Flo Ziegfeld. And I think Questel is a scream as the local
yenta. But the center of this film is Streisand. Every number is a gem,
and she looks great. There may be better musicals, but you'd be hard
pressed to name a better performance in a musical than Barbra Streisand
playing Fanny Brice in Funny Girl.
Others in the cast include Gertrude Flynn and Penny Santon as the card players, Tommy Rall as the prince in the ballet sequence, Mittie Lawrence as the maid, Gerald Mohr as the gangster, Inga Neilsen and Bettina Brenna as show girls, and Elaine Joyce in the roller skating number.
Quite simply, Barbra Streisand's extraordinary, scintillating Oscar-winning debut in this classic is one of the finest musical-comedy performances ever committed to celluloid. Better than that...I'd venture to say that alongside Vivien Leigh's masterful performance in "Gone With The Wind," Barbra's portrayal of vaudeville icon Fanny Brice may be one of the most ambitious, captivating turns by a lead actress ever captured on film. Even Barbra-phobes would have to concede that the woman completely knocked herself out with "Funny Girl" and her renditions of "I'm The Greatest Star," "My Man," "People" and especially the pulse-jolting "Don't Rain On My Parade" rank right up there with the best of Judy Garland ("Over The Rainbow," "The Trolley Song" and "The Man That Got Away."). Because Streisand has been an exalted Hollywood legend for many decades, people tend to almost take her remarkable talents - both as an actress and as a singer - for granted now but this opulent musical, sparkling score and her thrilling, take-no-prisoners performance will endure as a testament to what pure show business, high octane theatricality and legitimate talent are all about. Sing Proud, Barbra!
...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.
I've seen this film many times,and I've always thought it was one of
Barbra Streisand's best films because it allowed her to use her
strengths as a comedian, singer, and dramatic actor. It's clear that
her presence dominates the movie; however, there are some excellent
supporting players, including Kay Medford as Fanny Brice's mother Rose
and Walter Pigeon as Florenz Ziegfeld, two very fine character actors.
Rose is particularly likable because, unlike her daughter Fanny, she
sees things as they are and not the way they should be. This applies to
her comment about Nick Arnstein, the handsome gambler that Fanny
marries, despite the fact that Rose perceives him to be a "sponge."
Fanny, as shown in this film, is also very likable not only because of her humor but for her generosity and thoughtfulness. Her ambition, of course, is to conquer the stage and she does so fairly quickly after making a great mess of a roller skate number at the local dance hall. Before long, Fanny is auditioning for Ziegfeld, the famous impressario and she wins him over with her talent and charm. Nick Arnstein, a man about town, always seems to be around Fanny when she triumphs on the stage and this time is no different. He buys her a beautiful bouquet of roses with a note, "Dear Star, I told you so." Very soon, Fanny and Nick become involved in a relationship which is often on and off until Fanny literally proposes to him. What follows is a heartbreaking story of a young woman whose desire to be loved for herself alone and her passion for a happy domestic life is thwarted by fate and some wrong choices.
After a montage of the first year of their marriage together, problems start affecting the Arnstein marriage. It is true that they are wealthy people; however, their problems aren't minor. Nick begins to lose heavily at the gaming table and everything he tries ends in failure. Fanny, on the other hand, continues to be successful on the stage and Nick starts to resent her. Suddenly, all of his gentlemanly charm and good manners disappear as if by magic; he's rude to Fanny, making her upset over things that a truly married couple would find a way to resolve. Indeed, he starts ignoring her deliberately and places his interests and needs above hers. After a while, the marriage collapses not because of Fanny's career but the way in which Nick looks at their relationship (we discover this near the end of the film.) He also conceals his financial problems from her, shutting Fanny out of his life as though she didn't exist.
All of this culminates in Nick's unfortunate involvement in a shady bond scheme which sends him to prison for two years. I would say that these problems are rather huge. I don't want to give more away because I feel others should have the opportunity to see the film and judge for themselves. But I have to say that the ending of the movie, is, in my opinion, one of the most heartfelt, dignified, and classiest moments ever put on film. And Barbra Streisand makes the most of it, touching us not only with her excellent performance of the song "My Man" but also by the way her Fanny carries herself, taking responsibility for her choice and showing that she will go on with her life, despite what's happened to her.
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.
There are two important things to remember about Funny Girl when
writing about it or discussing it. The first is Nicky Arnstein was
still alive in 1964 when it debuted on Broadway, he died the following
year. The second is that Ray Stark, the producer of Funny Girl on stage
and on the screen is the son-in-law of Fanny Brice and Nicky Arnstein.
So off the bat you know you're going to get a sanitized version.
Not that what they created was bad, how could it be for giving Barbra Streisand the role that made her a star on both stage and screen. Fanny Brice didn't do too bad out of it either, unlike a lot of her contemporaries she lives on through the artistry and interpretation of an icon in a future age.
But was Fanny's story ever given the literary dry process cleaning. Eliminated was her brief marriage to a first husband. Changed is the fact that she knew exactly who at what Arnstein was before she married him. Arnstein was a big time con artist who had no shame whatsoever in using his famous wife's name as a come on. Fanny herself though was never involved in any of his schemes. Arnstein did in fact take the fall and never squealed on any of the ones behind him who certainly were more than capable of reprisals against him and possibly against Fanny Brice.
Jule Styne and Bob Merrill wrote the original songs for the Broadway score and added one song, Funny Girl, for the film. But still the two standouts are Barbra Streisand's classic People and Don't Rain On My Parade, a couple of standards she's made almost exclusively her own. I don't think anyone else would attempt to sing them.
Added to the film are a couple of contemporary songs that Fanny Brice made famous that Barbra reinterpreted, the classic My Man, a song she sang before Nicky Arnstein went to the joint, but still is identified as her lament for her husband in stir. She also sang Second Hand Rose, a really great comedy song, emphasizing Brice's Jewish heritage. I wish a couple of others had gotten in there. I've got Brice recordings of Cooking Breakfast For The One I Love and I'm An Indian. That last one is especially hysterical, Brice did it one of the Ziegfeld Follies dressed as an indigenous person to this continent with the last line being "I'm a Yiddishe Squaw". It's great to hear and must have been fabulous to see.
Funny Girl got seven nominations which included Best Picture, Best Sound, Best Song, Best Musical Scoring, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Kay Medford, the only other player from Broadway besides Streisand to be in the film. But the only Oscar it got was a shared one when Barbra Streisand tied for Best Actress with Katharine Hepburn. One of the very few times someone got an Oscar for their very first big screen effort.
Of course two things helped Barbra greatly. One was a role she had made her own and the second was direction by William Wyler who has won Best Director three times in his career and directed more players to Academy Awards than any other. Barbra was his last. Oddly enough he wasn't nominated for Best Director.
Those who are interested in seeing Fanny Brice as she really was can see her in The Great Ziegfeld, The Ziegfeld Follies, and Everybody Sing all of which are out on DVD and/or VHS. I think Barbra channeled more of Fanny into Funny Girl than the sequel Funny Lady, but I'll let you the viewer be the judge of that.
You can't go wrong seeing and hearing Barbra Streisand do some of the best material ever written for her in both films.
Funny Girl, first released in 1968, remains, a very enjoyable and most entertaining musical biography. Beautifully performed by Streisand, its possibly her best film, (some will argue that The Way We Were is her best performance,as an actress)/ Its is magnificently staged and photographed. Streisand's talents are emphasized, and displayed to perfection. This role (Fanny Brice) will forever be associated with her!! IT is to her credit that @38 years have passed and they have not revived this great musical on Broadway ... A recent revival at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn , N.J. was very successful, and there's talk of taking that production to NY, and Leslie Kritzer (new,unknown) was excellent, but more like Merman,than Streisand!! William Wyler, an underrated film director, handles the production like the true master he was. This ranks with one of his great films (Ben Hur, Mrs. Miniver, The Little Foxes etc). The score ,by the immortal, Jule Styne is and remains beautiful & memorable. People, Dont Rain on My Parade, The Greatest Star are standards. My Man,(not by Styne) a true tour de force conclusion, is a beautiful addition to the film, though ,in the original production, The Music That Makes Me Dance, worked very well also.. Ths supporting cast is excellent, especially, Omar Shariff, looking absolutetly "gorgeous" as Nicky Arnstein, and plays this role well. Kay Medford, as Mama, is terrific, and provides, many memorable moments. A Film to see again and again, makes you laugh and cry, beautiful to look at, and Barbra, is and will always be a treasure!!I rate this film a 10!! and feel it should rank higher on memorable film lists. The Musical film is a lost genre today (Moulin Rouge,is not a true musical in the classic sense) Its too bad!!Young audiences should be exposed to musicals, and Funny Girl should be seen by all !
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