There are pictures about the existence of which you know from the very childhood. Those are masterpieces of the last century which have been still living nowadays. One of such chefs-d’oeuvre is the musical Funny Face.
The play Funny Attractive Face had been already staged in 1927 on Broadway. The title, the main song and four items of the program were taken from that play for movie known as Funny Face nowadays. The plot of the musical was mostly changed to Wedding Day (1951).
Wedding Day was the Broadway musical play by Leonard Gershe, loosely based on affairs in his friend Avedon’s life. Roger Edens, the producer of Metro Goldwyn Mayer bought the play for their studio with Astaire and Hepburn in mind. With uncommon generosity, Arthur Freed, the musical producer allowed Edens to take Funny Face to Paramount. In 1957, the world, at last saw that marvelous movie. The motion picture was written by Leonard Gershe, produced by Roger Edens and directed by Stanley Donen.
Richard Avedon inspired Gershe’s story with his innovative photographs of haute couture and was, thus, hired as “special visual consultant” for Funny Face. The movie stars Audrey Hepburn (Jo Stockton), Fred Astaire (Dick Avery), Kay Thompson (Maggie Prescott), Robert Flamyng Paul Duval) and Michel Auclair (Prof.Floster). The genre of it can be defined as musical, romance and comedy. The picture admires us with the most beautiful places of New York or Paris and the final act “Bonjour, Paris” has been shot against the background of the Eiffel Tower.
An unforgettable dance performed by Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, the catwalk of Miss Hepburn’s dresses by Givenchy, couple of witty jokes…all these give the style and lightness to the film Funny Face.
With a simple plot, reminding the story of Cinderella, the events of the movie begin in New York City within the bureaus of the famous fashion magazine named Quality. Its President, Maggie Prescott is the woman who rules what the fashions of the day should be, herewith the scenario satirizes the world of fashion. The character of Maggie is said to be based on both Vogue editor Diana Vreeland and Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow. According to scenario, Maggie has a strong intention to find a real Quality Woman for representing and promoting the magazine, all the more so “a collection will be designed for her by the greatest couturier in Paris!” (Edens&Danon, 1957).
Maggie wants her to be both “beautiful” and “intellectual”. Fashion photographer Dick Avery discovers such a treasure, Jo Stockton, in a godforsaken Greenwich Village bookstore neighborhood Manhattan. Jo, being a shy bookshop clerk and amateur philosopher finds that the fashion industry is nonsense, saying: “it is chichi and an unrealistic approach to self-impression” (Edens&Danon, 1957). At first view, she has simply “perfectly funny, attractive face”… Maggie, the editor of magazine finds no signs of beauty in such a mousy person.
Only later she admits the girl being the standard of style and feminine charm. But Jo’s reaction for that is unbelievable: “I see no functional advantage in a marvelous mouth” (Edens&Danon, 1957). Later on, Jo agrees to pose as a model in Paris and thus receives the possibility to attend the Professor Floster’s lectures about empathic abilities. Soon Maggie, Dick, and Jo leave for Paris preparing for an outstanding fashion event. Eventually, her snobbish attitude toward the job softens and Jo begins to enjoy the work and the company of her handsome photographer.
It should not go unmentioned that the beauty queen Audrey Hepburn was the muse of Hubert de Givenchy throughout his life. “Givenchy’s elegant and classic style is noted for its separate skirts and tops; unusual embroidered and printed fabrics; tubular evening dresses; sumptuous ball gowns; jeweled headbands; shawls; the princess silhouette; sleeveless coats and funnel necklines.” (http://answers.encyclopedia.com/). Jo demonstrates some variants of that beauty throughout the film. No wonder, that she changes her attitude to fashion and modeling! According to the writer’s theme, Jo and Dick fall in love on the various photo shoots and demonstrate feelings for each other.
Their love has to overwhelm jealousy trial, which is caused with Floster’s making a pass at Jo. Shortly she feels herself totally disappointed with the Professor’s behavior, and desperately looks for where her beloved Dick could be. Meanwhile, Jo has to do the runway show, and before her wedding gown finale, she runs away with eyes full of tears…The girl heads towards the little church where they once shared a romantic moment during the photo shoot. There, she meets Dick dreaming with the reflective face of his dear Jo. The story ends happily with kisses and embraces of two hot beloved people.
It is rather all what I wanted to tell about the naive and innocent events of Funny Face. To my mind, the film can provoke interest among people appealing to fashion history and those who are fond of music and dancing. Givenchy clothes and the magic music composed by Gershe will not leave them indifferent. Nowadays, in an era of celebrity-fashion worship, the film Funny Face looks better than ever and remains one of the treasures of the American musicals.
Edens, R. (Producer), & Donen, S. (Director), (1957). Funny Face (Motion Picture).United
States: Paramount Pictures.