The continuing story of Fanny Brice following that depicted in Funny Girl (1968) is presented. An established star on Broadway as a headliner for the Ziegfeld Follies, Fanny and the rest of the world are hitting difficult times entering into the 1930s. Her marriage to Nicky Arnstein, who she still loves is ending in divorce, and even Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. is having trouble coming up with money to continue to produce the Follies. Along comes brash nightclub owner, song lyricist and wannabe impresario Billy Rose, who says he can raise the money and has the material to produce his own revue, which he wants to star Fanny. Fanny is both attracted to and repelled by Billy because of his chutzpah, his stubbornness and knowing that underneath his outer veneer is the soul of a true hustler... much like she was when she was first starting out and much like she still is now. Through their professional trials and tribulations, they slowly start to fall for each other. But Fanny admits that Nicky ...Written by
Producer Ray Stark was unhappy with the work of the original cinematographer and begged ailing seventy-five-year-old James Wong Howe to come out of retirement to shoot the picture. It was the last film he ever worked on. See more »
When Fanny makes an unexpected visit to Billy's "Aquacade" (Great Lakes Exposition, 1937) they are walking by the pool, and having a private conversation before the dress rehearsal. A jet aircraft can be heard flying overhead. The very first aircraft to be jet powered was flown on a test flight in Germany, August 1939. See more »
[referring to having borrowed money from the mob to finance his show]
They're gonna build me into the West Side Highway.
That's the only good news I've heard tonight.
I'm not kidding.
Neither am I.
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Ray Stark as son-in-law of Fanny Brice continued his wife's mother's saga in Funny Lady. This film picks up where Funny Girl left off with Fanny Brice now split with Nicky Arnstein and trying to carve a career out again. Barbra Streisand as Fanny is now facing the Depression and possible ruin. Performers like Eddie Cantor and Groucho Marx were ruined by the stock market crash. When we first meet her she's in the office of Bernard Baruch who is played by Larry Gates and a good friend to have in those times, she also by chance meets his former office boy and stenographer Billy Rose who's carving quite a career of his own now.
Rose possibly because of his working with Bernard Baruch may have learned to stay out of the stock market, but he was a gambler, a conman, a promoter, all these requirements to be a Broadway producer. Apparently Brice had a thing for these kind of people. But Rose as played by James Caan isn't quite as smooth an article as former husband Nicky Arnstein.
In real life these two knew each other and worked together before the show Crazy Quilt which was a flop on Broadway only running for 79 performances. That actually because 1931 was mid-Depression wasn't bad for the time. Still the way it was a flop is as funny as either a Mack Sennett short or an extended I Love Lucy episode, you take your choice.
Omar Sharif appears again as Nicky Arnstein who Rose no matter what he does can't seem to compete against. Brice has gone on to radio and film, but still can't find the elusive personal happiness in her relationships. Her closest friend is Roddy McDowall, a fictional gay character brought into the story and he functions the way Daniel Massey does as Noel Coward in the Julie Andrews biographical film about Gertrude Lawrence, Star. Ben Vereen's character Bert Robbins is a combination of Bert Williams and Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson. Bert Williams certainly did appear with Fanny Brice in the Ziegfeld Follies, but he died in 1922. Bill Robinson so far as I know never did work with Fanny Brice.
One thing I do remember about Billy Rose, his name is on all kinds of song lyrics, a lot of which are incorporated here. Now his contributions to the writing of these songs is debatable, but he certainly could promote them, especially if they were part of a show he was doing. I do recall Vincent Youmans's family complaining bitterly about Funny Lady, saying he wrote the music for Great Day and More Than You Know and wasn't given a mention on screen.
The original songs for Funny Lady were written by John Kander and Fred Ebb. One of the Oscar nominations that Funny Lady got was for Best Original Song, another Streisand classic How Lucky Can You Get. The song was done that year also in a duet album in a nice version by Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.
The enduring popularity of the decade's greatest star Barbra Streisand appearing once again in the role that made her career, pre-sold Funny Lady to a built in audience. It holds up very well and Barbra has made Fanny Brice come alive again for another generation, even if there's more Barbra than Fanny in this film as opposed to Funny Girl.
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