The life of Fanny Brice, famed comedienne and entertainer of the early 1900s. We see her rise to fame as a Ziegfeld 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.
The continuing story of Fanny Brice following that depicted in Funny Girl (1968) is presented. An established star on Broadway as a headliner for the Ziegfeld Follies, Fanny and the rest of the world are hitting difficult times entering into the 1930s. Her marriage to Nicky Arnstein, who she still loves is ending in divorce, and even Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. is having trouble coming up with money to continue to produce the Follies. Along comes brash nightclub owner, song lyricist and wannabe impresario Billy Rose, who says he can raise the money and has the material to produce his own revue, which he wants to star Fanny. Fanny is both attracted to and repelled by Billy because of his chutzpah, his stubbornness and knowing that underneath his outer veneer is the soul of a true hustler... much like she was when she was first starting out and much like she still is now. Through their professional trials and tribulations, they slowly start to fall for each other. But Fanny admits that Nicky ...Written by
Fanny's black tennis shoes - worn for comic effect in the 1937 Aquacade number - aren't period-correct: it wasn't until 1949 that Converse decided to make the toe guard, laces and outer wraps on black "Chuck Taylors" a contrasting white. 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 »
I first saw "Funny Lady" in 1979, when it was in heavy rotation on Showtime. At the time I loved it. Not a surprise: I was 12, in the early stages of my Barbra Streisand obsession and it was the first one of her movies I had ever seen. When it appeared on TCM recently I decided to take another look now that more than 30 years have passed, my Streisand obsession has cooled and I've since seen "Funny Girl," as well as everything else in the Streisand filmography save "Little Fockers" (you have to draw the line somewhere). I still enjoyed it, but I saw it for what it was: a contractual obligation.
Streisand didn't want to make the movie — reportedly only agreeing to it when threatened with a lawsuit — and it shows in her performance, the star often appearing annoyed and impatient with the proceedings. But then, who could blame her? The story, loosely based on Fanny Brice's marriage to Billy Rose, isn't fully developed here, lazily told and clumsily directed by Herbert Ross, with montages filling in the cracks between a few dramatic moments and musical numbers. In fact, "Funny Lady" at times plays like one of those vapid vehicles Hollywood sticks singers in just to cash in on his/her popularity, like "Burlesque," to cite a recent (and much worse) example. James Caan, as Rose, is good but he and Streisand never quite click, as if the stars were filmed in separate sound stages and spliced together in the editing room. Roddy McDowell flits at the periphery in the thankless role of Fanny's gay friend/assistant; Omar Sharif reprises his role as Nicky Arnstein in what's little more than an extended cameo, his character now a money grubbing cad; and Ben Vereen is in one musical number and quickly dismissed (the rest of his role landed on the cutting room floor).
I was also struck by how thrown-together the movie looked, with sets and costumes looking like castoffs from "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour" (the "Great Day" musical number in particular could just as easily have been part of Cher's Vegas performances in the '70s). And how about that final scene, set more than a decade later, with Streisand in a horrible helmet of gray hair and Caan's hair and mustache sprayed white, yet neither star looking a day older than 35.
And yet Streisand can still enthrall. I loved her musical numbers, particularly her bitter rendition of "How Lucky Can You Get," the ballad "If I Love Again," and the "Don't Rain on My Parade"-wannabe, "Let's Hear it for Me." Barbra even has some good dramatic moments, particularly a somber scene where Fanny and Rose discuss their relationship after she's catches him in bed with the star of his aquatic revue, Eleanor Holm. "Funny Lady" is less a sequel to "Funny Girl" than a star vehicle. Luckily, Streisand has enough power to drive it, even though this star vehicle doesn't have much under the hood.
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