Well, a few weeks back, we looked at one of Ginger Rogers’ solo films, so now we need to look at a solo film for the other half of this month’s featured Screen Team, Fred Astaire! In this case, we’re going with his 1957 musical Funny Face, also starring Audrey Hepburn!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Termites From Mars (1952)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)
(Length: 6 minutes, 21 seconds)
The Earth is being invaded by the Martians! However, as Woody Woodpecker quickly finds out, these “Martians” are a bunch of termites out to eat up his home! This one was a bit of a departure from some of the other cartoons in the series. It’s different seeing Woody be the one getting picked on almost throughout the entire short (until he finally manages to turn the tables). It has its moments, particularly when the “Martian” invasion is being announced. It’s not the most original (since, as you can expect, the termites eat up almost everything wooden in sight). I can’t say as I like this deviation from the regular series that much, but it at least breaks up the monotony (and keeps Woody from becoming too obnoxious).
And Now For The Main Feature…
Quality Magazine editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) is always in search of starting the next big fashion trend, whether it be everyone wearing pink, or clothing for intellectual women, or finding one woman to represent Quality Magazine itself. It’s while in search of the second one (clothing for intellectual women) that Maggie and her crew invade a Greenwich Village bookstore to take some photos with their model. They immediately get on the nerves of the shop owner’s assistant Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn), who complains about how they just take over the shop. When they are finally done, the place is a mess, and Maggie’s head photographer, Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), stays behind to help Jo clean up. In doing so, he learns of her desire to go to Paris, France and talk to some of the philosophers there. Later on, when Maggie starts planning out a campaign for the “Quality woman,” Dick suggests using Jo. Maggie at first dislikes the idea, as does Jo when she is dragged into the Quality offices. However, when Dick explains to Jo that doing the modeling would result in a trip to Paris, she comes around to the idea. It’s not smooth sailing at the start, though. Without realizing that she needs to meet with French designer Paul Duval (Robert Flemyng) (who is designing her outfits), Jo goes to a local bohemian café to talk with some of the philosophers there, which prompts Dick to go looking for her. He helps her to realize her responsibilities, and she shows up for work the next day. Duval successfully designs a series of outfits for her, and so Dick spends the next week photographing her in those dresses throughout Paris. However, when they take pictures of her in a wedding gown outside a small country church, she is overwhelmed, and reveals to Dick that she loves him (and he responds in kind). On the night she is to be presented to the press, she learns that Professor Émile Flostre (Michel Auclair), whom she had come to Paris in hopes of seeing, is speaking at the café, so she stops by to see him. When Dick comes around to pick her up, he quickly becomes suspicious of Flostre’s intentions and drags her away. With the two of them arguing, her presentation to the press is a disaster. Jo decides to not come to the fashion show, and instead goes to a party that Flostre is hosting at his home. Trying to get her to come to the fashion show, Dick and Maggie go to Flostre’s home in disguise. But will their efforts work, or will Dick continue to drive a wedge between Jo and himself with his suspicions?
While they may share the same name, the movie is NOT based on the 1927 Broadway show Funny Face that had originally starred Fred Astaire and his sister Adele (although several songs from that show’s score were included in the film). Instead, the movie was based on an unproduced Leonard Gershe play called Wedding Day. Producer Roger Edens, working at MGM under famous musical producer Arthur Freed, had bought the rights to the play, intending it as a vehicle for Fred Astaire and then-popular star Audrey Hepburn. Both Astaire and Hepburn wanted to do the film, but there was one major problem: she was under contract to Paramount Pictures, and they had absolutely no intention of loaning her out to MGM. So, Arthur Freed let Roger Edens take the project to Paramount, and he brought with him director Stanley Donen and some other MGM talent. They did some of the location filming in Paris, but the weather caused a number of delays, forcing them to make some adjustments. Reviews were positive, but the film didn’t do too well at the box office initially. It wasn’t until the film was reissued in 1964, alongside Audrey’s next big musical, My Fair Lady, that Funny Face was able to become profitable.
I’ve seen Funny Face many times over the years, and it’s a movie that I always love finding an excuse to come back around to! Fred Astaire’s presence was indeed my original reason for seeing this movie, and he has indeed remained one of the film’s main attractions for me. And, to be fair, I would say that seeing this film time and time again helped me grow to love Audrey Hepburn as well. Their three dance duets together (“Funny Face,” “He Loves And She Loves” and “‘S Wonderful”) are definitely the highlights of the film, with the romantic “He Loves And She Loves” being my favorite of the bunch. Fred and Audrey also get some fun solo routines in the forms of “Let’s Kiss And Make Up” and “Basal Metabolism” (I’ll admit, “Basal Metabolism” took me a while to come around to, since the music and style of dance are so far out of my normal preferences, but it’s grown on me with time). Kay Thompson adds to the fun in a rare onscreen performance as the no-nonsense magazine editor who usually runs roughshod over everybody to get what she wants (and I wish she had done more work onscreen, she’s so much fun). All in all, Funny Face is a movie that I love to see again and again, and I certainly recommend it highly!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD either individually or as part of the Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection from Paramount Pictures
Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
*ranked #2 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
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