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(Best sung to “Don’t Rain on My Parade”)
When Fanny Brice was just a show-biz starter,
She couldn’t be a chorus girl, but smarter;
She had the voice to make the audience acclaim.
Though like a bagel compassed by bialys,
She was a starlet in the Ziegfeld Follies.
She made the people laugh and earned the highest fame.
Quite early on, she meets a handsome mister.
This Nicky Arnstein just wants to assist her,
But over time their love inevitably grows.
When he must leave to catch a ship and gamble,
She follows him and dumps her show to ramble
With him, the man who’s glad to see her and propose.
They’re glad together for a time, but Nicky
Runs out of luck, and earning money’s tricky.
Yet Fanny’s still the star of Ziegfeld’s latest show.
Increasingly, he can’t provide the bacon;
He feels his confidence and pride are shaken;
And he will not accept the help she can bestow.
This streak of bad luck—Nick cannot crack it,
So he decides to join a bond scheme racket.
He goes to jail for eighteen months, and they both part.
Though Fanny still may love her former wooer,
They both decide to start their lives the newer
By separating, but Miss Brice still sings her heart.

Funny Girl was Barbra Streisand’s first film, based off the Tony-nominated Broadway show she headlined, and it’s the film that won her the Academy Award for Best Actress (albeit tied with Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter). The role of Fanny Brice suits her just as much as that of Dolly Levi, both strong Jewish women (at least as played by Streisand), and, though it entails her being self-conscious about her looks, her comedic and vocal talents are given great opportunity to shine.

Omar Sharif is also as “gorgeous” as ever as the charming gambler Nick Arnstein, who helps Fanny early in her career. Sharif certainly sells the character, but Arnstein is an unfortunate example of pride gone awry. Ignoring the fact that he seduces Fanny and only marries her at her suggestion, the way he handles his poor luck is frustrating to me. It’s usually admirable when some poor movie father says he won’t accept charity but will rather earn his own money, but I think most such fathers would take the contribution before turning to illegal activities. Nick was given a chance to finally have a somewhat stable career, and he turned it down because his wife was helping to finance it. That’s not even charity; it’s simple sharing! For him to knowingly commit a crime and desire divorce is perhaps not as fatal as the actions of Norman Maine in A Star Is Born, but it does show that his own pride trumped his love for Fanny. But I digress….

While the unsatisfying end and the rather long running time detract somewhat, the music makes up for it. Many songs were omitted from the stage production, but several show-stopping numbers just had to be included. Of course, Streisand’s rendition of “People” is quite popular, but “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” is a hoot. I actually prefer the more upbeat songs “I’m the Greatest Star” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” The lyrics are all clever, and the final notes are awe-inspiring.

Like Hello, Dolly, Funny Girl is not my favorite musical, but it’s a great mixture of drama, comedy, and music that meshes beautifully, mainly due to Streisand’s performance. While the last song “My Man” may finish it on a high note, I do wish the film overall ended more happily.

Best line: (Fanny, speaking of Nick) “I see him as he is. I love him as he is!”   (her mother Rose) “Fanny, love him a little less. Help him a little more.”

VC’s best line: (Fanny, explaining how she’s different) “I’m a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls!”

Artistry: 8
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 8
Watchability: 7
Other (great music and singing): +3
TOTAL: 43 out of 60

Next: #181 – Something the Lord Made

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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