Play It Again: Funny Face

Play It Again: Funny Face. By Jess Lomas.

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up … or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

We’ve discussed unusual pairings in film before, most notably the considerable age difference between Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron in Daddy Long Legs. Well, Astaire is back at it again in 1957’s Funny Face opposite Audrey Hepburn, 30 years his junior. Adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name, as well as another musical called Wedding Bells, Stanley Donen (On The Town, Singin’ in the Rain) directs this bold and innovative musical.

When fashion magazine editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) seeks the next big fashion trend, she and photographer Dick Avery (Astaire) stumble upon the meek bookstore clerk Jo Stockton (Hepburn). Jo is not interested in the frivolity of the fashion world and instead longs to visit Paris to hear the famous philosopher Professor Emile Flostre speak. When Jo is tricked into posing for the magazine, Dick sees a special quality in her and convinces her to come to Paris to model. It doesn’t take long for Dick and Jo to fall in love, but will Jo’s dedication to the Professor derail everything she’s come to adore?

It’s said that Hepburn would not sign on for the film until Astaire had. While in Daddy Long Legs the noticeable age difference proved to be a distraction, in Funny Face the two leads play against each other so wonderfully that you soon look past it. The same cannot be said for Hepburn’s attempt at singing, something that would not be repeated in her next musical, My Fair Lady. She does make up for this shortcoming in the dance numbers, which exhibit her previous dance training.

The film is bursting with memorable music from George Gershwin, including ‘S Wonderful and Bonjour, Paris! However the highlight of this film is indeed the fashion; from the costumes to the runway shows within the film itself, it’s an explosion of colour and style that has gone unmatched since the Golden age of Hollywood musicals. Nominated for four Oscars, including Best Costume Design, Funny Face may not be as good as a trip to Paris but it comes pretty close.

Discuss: Funny Face!

2 Responses to “Play It Again: Funny Face”

  1. The comment is made about Audrey Hepburn’s failed attempt at singing in Funny Face and going on to say this wasn’t repeated in My Fair Lady. However, it must be stated that Audrey Hepburn’s pathetic attempt at a cockney accent in My Fair Lady was a total disaster. These failings only highlight a very narrow range of skills (compare Julie Andrews or Meryl Streep) and would suggest she was greatly overrated as an actress.

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