Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

FUNNY FACE

Sexless glamour: Audrey Hepburn (with Fred Astaire)
FUNNY FACE (1957). Director: Stanley Donen.

Fashion magazine editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson of Manhattan Merry-Go-Round) and photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) invade a Greenwich Village bookstore with a dumb model (hoping all the books will make her look intellectual) and a camera crew, overwhelming the bright if pretentious clerk, Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn). Later they get the idea of turning Jo into a high-fashion model where she will be the cornerstone of a campaign in Paris and help introduce designer Paul Duval's (Robert Flemying of The Horrible Dr. Hichcock) new line. Jo has always wanted to see Paris and meet her idol, Professor Emile Flostre (Michel Auclair), the founder of "empathacolism," who preaches empathy but would rather make time with Jo. Almost grudgingly, Dick and Jo fall in love while the others hope that she and the new collection will be a hit. Hepburn, who exudes her famous "sexless glamour" throughout the movie (even before she's made over), had starred in several films by this time, and she gives a superior performance, radiating charm, but her singing is for the birds and she was wisely dubbed by the time My Fair Lady came around. Astaire is Astaire, making everything seem effortless. One can only assume that Eve Arden wasn't available to essay the role of Maggie, because the casting of Kay Thompson -- even though the woman could sing and dance -- is perplexing. Thompson is by no means terrible, but she completely lacks the light tough, and hasn't an ounce of charm; indeed she's rather off-putting. Admittedly, you won't find many close ups in most wide screen productions of the era, but the camera wisely stays as far away from Thompson's face as it can. The songs consist of some Ira and George Gershwin classics and new tunes by producer Roger Edens and collaborators."Bonjour Paris" has Astaire, Hepburn and Thompson extolling the virtues of the great city. Hepburn and Thompson clown around for "How to Be Lovely;" and Astaire warbles the title tune, "He Loves and She Loves" and "S'Wonderful." Ray June's cinematography is first-rate and makes the most of Parisian locations, especially a pastoral forest where Hepburn and Astaire have a dance -- the film's highlight. Funny Face is good to look at and generally well-performed, but for some reason it just doesn't emerge as a real classic, and the script is trite and dated. The score is very jazzy, and at one point Astaire and Thompson (who reportedly did not enjoy working with Astaire) team up for a beatnik number that frankly, doesn't add much to the picture.

Verdict: Attractive fluff. **3/4.

2 comments:

angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - This one is a visual feast, I especially love the Bonjour Paris and Think Pink numbers. But I totally agree that Eve Arden would have been marvelous in the Kay Thompson role...and you are so so right, Hepburn could barely warble; why she got the My Fair Lady role I'll never know...I can't watch that movie even though I love Audrey.
Also, Astaire is uncomfortably long in the tooth compared to Hepburn, so it is an odd May-December pairing. Good movie overall though, I always watch it when it comes on TCM.
-Chris

William said...

Well at least you didn't have to listen to Hepburn's singing in "My Fair Lady" as Mar4ni Nixon did the honors, thank goodness!

As for the formidable Kay Thompson, I can only guess that Arden wasn't available. True, Arden wasn't considered a singer or dancer but she managed to warble a bit in "One Touch of Venus" and surely Astaire could have shown her a few steps. Oh, well!