Saturday, March 7, 2015
FUNNY FACE (1957)
Directed By: Stanley Donen
Written By: Leonard Gershe
Choreography By: Ray June
Editor: Frank Bacht
Costumes By: Edith Head
Cast: Frank Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Kay Thompson, Dovima, Ruta Lee
Fashion photographer Dick Avery, in search for an intellectual backdrop for an air-headed model, expropriates a Greenwich Village bookstore. When the photo session is over the store is left in a shambles, much to salesgirl Jo Stockton's dismay. Avery stays behind to help her clean up. Later, he examines the photos taken there and sees Jo in the background of one shot. He is intrigued by her unique appearance, as is Maggie Prescott, the editor of a leading fashion magazine. They offer Jo a modeling contract, which she reluctantly accepts only because it includes a trip to Paris. Eventually, her snobbish attitude toward the job softens, and Jo begins to enjoy the work and the company of her handsome photographer.
The plot of this movie is actually that of Leonard Gershe 's unsuccessful Broadway musical "Wedding Bells" - apparently the studio bought the rights to the title just so they could use the song. The original plot of the musical was scrapped, and Gershwin songs from other musicals replaced several numbers originally written by Gershe himself for "Wedding Bells". These numbers were tweaked so that they could fit into the main storyline, and one of them - of course - was "Funny Face". The studio may have felt that the original plot of "Funny Face" could not be properly adapted into a movie as it was an "ensemble" musical with people dropping out and parts changing all the time.
The film is grand by design. A Fun look at immaculate fashion of the day in the past. --The film is noteworthy for it's songs and dance sequences that are seamless, also for items set design and costumes.
The film really puts on a show that is much too small for the television screen. Which is the way I unfortunately saw it. The film is made to be watched in widescreen on the big screen to truly see and appreciate it's charms.
It's colorful as Fred Astaire though older is the ultimate dashing sensitive well dressed leading man.
Audrey Hepburn is the naive intellectual world class beauty. All of this films energy and razor dazzle makes up for the fact that it's plot is rather thin to non-existent. It seems more like a set-up for it's musical sequences.
In order to secure Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire on the cast, producers told each the other was already signed, figuring they would not pass up the opportunity to work together.
Fred Astaire's character is based on photographer Richard Avedon. In fact, it is Avedon who set up most of the photography for this film, including the famous face portrait ofAudrey Hepburn unveiled during the dark room sequence.
Unlike most musicals it doesn't overstay it's welcome at a scant 100 minutes that luckily pass by briskly. It doesn't feel indulgent or too long (like WEST SIDE STORY)
The film feels like a light snack to cheer up your day, put a smile on your face and help the time pass. The type of Sunday family entertainment from youth.
One of the reasons to admire the film is that it is a throwback to a classic era. Another time that seems more like a story book or fairy tale. As you watch a bygone era and indulge in it lush environment and world.
Keep in mind I haven't seen too many Fred Astaire films before. I have seen a few not many Audrey Hepburn films and next to CHARADE this is my favorite of hers and my 2nd favorite performance (I should note again I haven't actually seen too many of her film and especially MY FAIR LADY) Ms. Hepburn was so exquisite and poised yet seems to have a wild streak. Actresses such as Natalie Portman and Anne Hathaway so far have come closest to immolating her image on screen.
Audrey Hepburn was offered the lead role in GIGI but turned it down to make this movie
Cyd Charisse was offered the lead role, but declined. Audrey Hepburn's agent initially rejected the film, but Hepburn overrode the decision after reading the script.
The costumes are chic and classy, yet you can dance in them.
Many of the production staff usually associated with MGM musicals went to Paramount especially to work on this film, so it is, essentially, an MGM musical made at Paramount.
The surprise of the film is Kay Thompson as the owner of the agency. She is funny, can sing and dance in a bawdy way that makes you take notice that she is a show stopper herself.
I only had a problem with one scene where the picture goes from sharp to hazy. I didn't underStand why and it's never explained in the film. Is it a dream? A fantasy? Their vision of the perfect place where they truly fall in love?
The conflict also felt false towards the end but I liked how it was tied up.
The film is truly a classic worth seeing. It won't change the way you see cinema or the world but it will entertain you.