Making her film debut as Fanny Brice, Barbra Streisand begins the legend that continues to this day. Adapted from the Broadway Play by the same name, in which she also starred, this story takes you into the life and pitfalls of the great Fanny Brice - comedic talent from the Ziegfield era.
Perfectly chosen for this role of ugly duckling turned into swan (a role that Streisand continues to seek out and perfect) Streisand's legendary voice and comedy joined with the fantastic music of Jule Styne give you a poignant and heart wrenching look into the life of actresses.
Fanny, not that cute but full of talent, auditions for a role and glides into the life of Nicky Arnstein (played by Omar Sharif in the movie, Sydney Chaplin on stage) and Flo Ziegfield. Always aware that she is not the pretty one but her talent forces her constantly into the spotlight, she relies on her comedic relief to gain control of her life.
Fanny constantly on the rise in her profession moves in and out of the life of Arnstein and eventually love overtakes their reluctance and they marry. Reminiscent of J.N. Howard and Ester Hoffman in a later movie for Streisand (Star is Born), Arnstein, a heavy gambler and playboy about town, gets involved in the nefarious side of life and ends up with a prison term. Though deeply in love with Fanny, he is unable to control his gambling habit and is unable to live in the shadow of Fanny any longer. Her rendition of "My Man" takes the audience down and you see Arnstein going off to jail and out of Fanny's life forever.
Streisand, though only in her early 20's at the time, took the film and stage by storm with her rendition of the life of Fanny Brice. Indeed, some say it could have been written with Streisand in mind - both her talent and her looks. Never viewed as a beautiful woman, her aura in this film give point to the fact that beauty encompasses more than just looks. Her delivery of the great songs released with this film - People' (becoming her trademark), Second Hand Rose', I'm the Greatest Star', Don't Rain on my Parade' and the breathtaking My Man' - as well as her cute duet with Sharif You are Woman, I am Man' - paved the way for her award as Best Actress for this film.
As a side note, several of the people that stared in the stage performance continued on to star with her in the screen performance (Medford for one) but fortunately Chaplin declined. The hate and interaction between Streisand and Chaplin on stage became so evident near the end of the run of the show that often it was commented on. He considered her a prima donna - as most do - and perhaps felt threatened by her power, even at her young age. In addition, the choice of Omar Sharif caused quite a stir at the time, as Streisand is Jewish and their countries were at war with each other. In fact, the showing of Funny Girl (and probably Funny Lady) was banned in both their countries and not shown to this day.
I think the choice of Sharif was a good one with his dark and devilish good looks, a perfect foil to the frail and often plain portrayal given by Brice/Streisand.
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Susi Dawson (SusiDee34)
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