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Funny Face is an Americanmarker musical film released in 1957 in VistaVision Technicolor, with assorted songs by George and Ira Gershwin. The film was written by Leonard Gershe and directed by Stanley Donen. It stars Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, and Kay Thompson. Richard Avedon designed the opening title sequence and consulted on the film, and Bill Avery was the still photographer. Contrary to common belief, only four of the songs are from the 1927 Broadwaymarker musical production of the same name.

Synopsis

Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) is a fashion magazine publisher and editor, for Quality magazine, who is looking for the next big fashion trend. She wants a new look for the magazine. Maggie wants the look to be both "beautiful" and "intellectual". She and famous fashion photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) want models who can "think as well as they look." The two brainstorm and come up with the idea to find a "sinister" looking book store in the Greenwich Villagemarker neighborhood of Manhattanmarker. They subsequently locate a bookstore named "Embryo Concepts".

Maggie and Dick take over Embryo Concepts, which is being run by the shy bookshop clerk and amateur philosopher, Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn). Jo thinks the fashion and modeling industry is nonsense, saying: "it is chichi, and an unrealistic approach to self-impressions as well as economics". Maggie decides to use Jo in the first fashion shot, to give it a more intellectual look. After the first shot Maggie locks Jo out of the shop to shut her up.

Jo wants more than anything else in the world to go to Parismarker and attend the famous philosopher and professor Emile Flostre's (Michel Auclair) lectures about empathicalism. When Dick gets back to the dark room, he sees something in Jo's face which is "new" and "fresh", and which would be perfect for the campaign, giving it "character", "spirit", and "intelligence".

They send for Jo and start treating her like a doll, trying to make her over, pulling at her clothes and attempting to cut her hair. She rebels and runs away, only to hide in the darkroom where Dick is working. When Dick mentions Paris, Jo becomes very interested in that she would get a chance to see Professor Flostre, and is finally convinced to model.

Soon Maggie, Dick, and Jo are off to Paris to prepare for a major fashion event, shooting photos at famous landmarks from the area. During the various photo shoots Jo and Dick develop feelings for each other, and they fall in love.

One night when Jo is getting ready for a gala, she learns that Professor Flostre is giving a lecture at a cafe nearby. She attends, forgetting the gala. Eventually Dick finds her and they get into an argument, which involves Jo being publicly embarrassed and Maggie outraged.

Jo goes to talk to Professor Flostre at his home. Through some scheming, Maggie and Dick make it into Flostre's home and confront Jo and Flostre. This eventually leads to Dick causing Flostre to fall and knock himself out. Jo urges them to leave. When Flostre wakes up, he tries to make a pass at Jo. Shocked at the behavior of her "idol", she smashes a vase over his head and runs out.

Before the group leaves for home, there is a final fashion show. Jo and Maggie try to get in touch with Dick, who has made plans to leave Paris. Jo does the runway show and before her wedding gown finale, she looks out the window and sees the plane Dick was supposed to be on, take off. Heartbroken, she runs off the runway in tears at the conclusion of the show.

Meanwhile, Dick is at the airport. He runs into Flostre and learns that Jo bashed him on the head with a vase. Dick, realizing how much he cares, goes back to find Jo. He goes back to the runway show, only to find that Jo ran off. Finally, after a long search, Dick finds Jo (in the wedding gown) by a little church where they shared a romantic moment during the photo shoot. They embrace and kiss.

Cast



Notes

The plot of the film version is drastically different from that of the Broadway musical, and only four of the songs remain. Astaire also starred in the stage version alongside his sister, Adele Astaire. The choreography is by Eugene Loring. The movie plot is actually adapted from another Broadway musical, Wedding Bells, by Leonard Gershe. The original title for the film was Wedding Day.

Unlike her later film My Fair Lady, Hepburn sings the songs herself in this, her first musical. She performs one solo, "How Long Has This Been Going On?"; a duet with Astaire, "'S Wonderful"; a duet with Kay Thompson called "On How to be Lovely"; and takes part in an ensemble performance of "Bonjour, Paris." Her previous dance training is also called into play, not only in the two dance numbers she performs with Astaire but also for a Bohemian-style solo dance in a nightclub, which has since often been replayed in retrospectives of her career.

The overexposed close-up of Hepburn's face used on the Original Soundtrack album, as well as in the Darkroom Scene in the movie


As was the case with many of her leading men, Astaire was much older than Hepburn. At 58, 30 years Hepburn's senior, he was approaching the end of his musical film career, in this, the second in a consecutive series of three French-themed musicals he made in the 1950s. He performs a song and dance solo with umbrella and cape to Gershwin's "Let's Kiss and Make Up." According to Hepburn, she insisted on Astaire as a precondition for her participation. Thompson, who usually worked behind the scenes as a musical director for films, makes a rare appearance on camera as Maggie Prescott, a fashion magazine editor. Besides her duet with Hepburn, she performs the solo number "Think Pink!" in the presence of a dance chorus, and Thompson and Astaire perform a comic dance duet to "Clap Yo' Hands." Thompson is perhaps best known today as the author of the popular series of books concerning the spoiled rich girl, "Eloise".

Astaire's character was loosely based on the career of Richard Avedon, who provided a number of the photographs seen in the film, including the stills for the opening credits, which were also used in the halls of Quality magazine. Probably the most famous single image from the film is the intentionally overexposed close-up of Hepburn's face in which only her facial features—her eyes, eyebrows, nose and mouth—are visible. This image is seen briefly in black-and-white at the very beginning of the opening title sequence, during the "Funny Face" musical number which takes place in a darkroom, and when Dick (Astaire) presents it to Maggie (Thompson).

Songs



Awards

The National Board of Review gave the film Special Citation award for the photographic innovations. Leonard Gershe was nominated for "Best Written American Musical" by the Writers Guild of America. Stanley Donen was nominated by the Directors Guild of Americamarker for "Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures" and for a "Golden Palm" at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival. Fred Astaire received a Golden Laurel nomination for "Top Male Musical Performance". The film received four Academy Award "Oscar" nominations: Leonard Gershe for "Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen"; Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy (Hepburn's costume designer) for "Best Costume Design"; Ray June for "Best Cinematography"; and Hal Pereira, George W. Davis, Sam Comer, and Ray Moyer for "Best Art Direction-Set Decoration".

Cultural references

In the fall of 2006, clothing retailer The Gap used footage from Funny Face in its commercials for its Skinny Black Pant. In the commercials, Hepburn's dance number is paired with the song "Back in Black" by AC/DC.

In the episode of Gilmore Girls titled "S'Wonderful S'Marvelous", (taken from the George and Ira Gershwin song "S'Wonderful") Lorelai Gilmore and Christopher Hayden watch Funny Face on a date.

In 1990, pop diva Whitney Houston used Hepburn's character from Funny Face as a tribute to Hollywood's Golden Age in her video "I'm Your Baby Tonight."

A new Silkstone Barbie designed to look like Jo Stockton. It was only available to 2008 Barbie conventioneers.

DVD release

To date, Funny Face has been released to DVD in Region 1 (North America) in two editions from Paramount Home Entertainment: in 2001 as part of the "Audrey Hepburn Widescreen Collection" series, and again in 2007 in a 50th Anniversary edition. The 2007 version has additional featurettes as well as improved picture and sound quality from the 2001 edition. In January 2009, as part of the Centennial Collection, many of Audrey Hepburn's popular films which include "Funny Face" were remastered in high-definition and featured additional features not included in the 2007 edition such as Kay Thompson's "Think Pink", "This is Vistavision" and "Fashion Photographers Exposed".

References

  1. Landazuri, Margarita. "Spotlight: Funny Face " - Turner Classic Movies
  2. Puente, Maria. "Avedon pushed photography to the edge" - USA Today - October 1 2004
  3. Grundberg, Andy. "Richard Avedon, the Eye of Fashion, Dies at 81" - New York Times - October 1 2004
  4. Feeney, Mark. "Photographer Richard Avedon dies" - Boston Globe - October 2 2004
  5. Funny Face awards - at IMDb
  6. Keizer, Mark. "Funny Face - 50th Anniversary Edition" - DVDFile - October 1 2007


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