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1930s in New York. The famous singer Fanny Brice has divorced her first husband Nicky Arnstein. During the depression she has trouble finding work as an artist but meets Billy Rose, a newcomer who writes lyrics and owns his own nightclub. Written by
The book "Barbra: The Second Decade" features stills from a number of scenes cut from the final film; these include: more/longer scenes with Ben Vereen and scenes of her as Fanny Brice's popular "Baby Snooks" radio character a dramatic scene with Brice and her very young daughter See more »
When Fanny Brice takes off, singing, in the yellow biplane, the plane is shown taking off from a runway clearly marked with Instrument Landing System (ILS) bars, which had not yet been developed in the late 1920's when the scene is set. See more »
[referring to having borrowed money from the mob to finance his show]
They're gonna build me into the West Side Highway.
That's the only good news I've heard tonight.
I'm not kidding.
Neither am I.
See more »
Ray Stark as son-in-law of Fanny Brice continued his wife's mother's saga in Funny Lady. This film picks up where Funny Girl left off with Fanny Brice now split with Nicky Arnstein and trying to carve a career out again. Barbra Streisand as Fanny is now facing the Depression and possible ruin. Performers like Eddie Cantor and Groucho Marx were ruined by the stock market crash. When we first meet her she's in the office of Bernard Baruch who is played by Larry Gates and a good friend to have in those times, she also by chance meets his former office boy and stenographer Billy Rose who's carving quite a career of his own now.
Rose possibly because of his working with Bernard Baruch may have learned to stay out of the stock market, but he was a gambler, a conman, a promoter, all these requirements to be a Broadway producer. Apparently Brice had a thing for these kind of people. But Rose as played by James Caan isn't quite as smooth an article as former husband Nicky Arnstein.
In real life these two knew each other and worked together before the show Crazy Quilt which was a flop on Broadway only running for 79 performances. That actually because 1931 was mid-Depression wasn't bad for the time. Still the way it was a flop is as funny as either a Mack Sennett short or an extended I Love Lucy episode, you take your choice.
Omar Sharif appears again as Nicky Arnstein who Rose no matter what he does can't seem to compete against. Brice has gone on to radio and film, but still can't find the elusive personal happiness in her relationships. Her closest friend is Roddy McDowall, a fictional gay character brought into the story and he functions the way Daniel Massey does as Noel Coward in the Julie Andrews biographical film about Gertrude Lawrence, Star. Ben Vereen's character Bert Robbins is a combination of Bert Williams and Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson. Bert Williams certainly did appear with Fanny Brice in the Ziegfeld Follies, but he died in 1922. Bill Robinson so far as I know never did work with Fanny Brice.
One thing I do remember about Billy Rose, his name is on all kinds of song lyrics, a lot of which are incorporated here. Now his contributions to the writing of these songs is debatable, but he certainly could promote them, especially if they were part of a show he was doing. I do recall Vincent Youmans's family complaining bitterly about Funny Lady, saying he wrote the music for Great Day and More Than You Know and wasn't given a mention on screen.
The original songs for Funny Lady were written by John Kander and Fred Ebb. One of the Oscar nominations that Funny Lady got was for Best Original Song, another Streisand classic How Lucky Can You Get. The song was done that year also in a duet album in a nice version by Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.
The enduring popularity of the decade's greatest star Barbra Streisand appearing once again in the role that made her career, pre-sold Funny Lady to a built in audience. It holds up very well and Barbra has made Fanny Brice come alive again for another generation, even if there's more Barbra than Fanny in this film as opposed to Funny Girl.
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