Funny Face

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Funny Face
Funny Face 1957.jpg
Original 1957 release poster
Directed by Stanley Donen
Produced by Roger Edens
Written by Leonard Gershe
Music by
Cinematography Ray June
Edited by Frank Bracht
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • February 13, 1957 (1957-02-13) (US)
  • April 25, 1957 (1957-04-25) (UK[1])
Running time
103 minutes[2]
Country United States
  • English
  • French
Budget $3 million
Box office $2.5 million[3]

Funny Face is a 1957 American musical romantic comedy film directed by Stanley Donen and written by Leonard Gershe, containing assorted songs by George and Ira Gershwin. Although having the same title as the 1927 Broadway musical Funny Face by the Gershwin brothers, and featuring the same male star (Fred Astaire), the plot is totally different and only four of the songs from the stage musical are included. Alongside Astaire, the film stars Audrey Hepburn and Kay Thompson.


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 Village neighborhood of Manhattan. They subsequently find 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 outside to keep her from interrupting the rest of the photo shoot. The crew leaves the store in a shambles; Dick stays behind to help clean up and apologizes to Jo, then kisses her impulsively. Jo dismisses him but clearly feels the stirrings of romance.

What Jo wants more than anything else is to go to Paris and attend the famous philosopher/professor Emile Flostre's (Michel Auclair) lectures about empathicalism. When Dick gets back to the darkroom, 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, pretending they want to order some books from her shop. Once she arrives, they start treating her like a doll, trying to make her over, pulling at her clothes and attempting to cut her hair. She is outraged 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 persuaded to model for the magazine. 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 Flostre is giving a lecture at a cafe nearby. She attends, forgetting the gala. Eventually, Dick finds her and they get into an argument at the gala's opening, which results in Jo being publicly embarrassed and Maggie outraged. Jo goes to talk to Flostre at his home. Through some scheming, Maggie and Dick make it into the soiree at Flostre's home. After performing an impromptu song and dance for Flostre's disciples, they 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, 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 discover that Jo is nowhere to be found. Finally, after applying empathicalism at Maggie's behest, Dick realizes that Jo would return to the church where they had photographed her in a wedding dress and shared their first romantic moment and kiss. Returning there himself, he finds Jo (in the wedding gown) by a little brook. He sings to her and she to him. They embrace and kiss.


Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, the lead stars of the film.

Musical numbers


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 film 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.

As was the case with many of her leading men, Astaire was much older than Hepburn. At 58, three decades 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 loosely based on Diana Vreeland. 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".[citation needed] (While at Vogue, Vreeland once sent a memo to staff urging them to "Today let's think pig white! Wouldn't it be wonderful to have stockings that were pig white! The color of baby pigs, not quite white and not quite pink!"[4])

Astaire's character was loosely based on the career of Richard Avedon,[5][6][7][8] 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, which was designed by Avedon, during the "Funny Face" musical number which takes place in a darkroom, and when Dick (Astaire) presents it to Maggie (Thompson).

The film is jokingly regarded as the first (and only) "MGM" musical made at Paramount Studios since Roger Edens was the producer, Stanley Donen was the director, and quite a few of the staff members under the Arthur Freed Unit at Metro (including Adolph Deutsch, Conrad Salinger, and Skip Martin), along with Astaire and Kay Thompson, were brought over to Paramount to make this film.


Box office

On initial release, Funny Face was a box office disappointment and failed to break even. However, in 1964, when My Fair Lady (also starring Hepburn) was released to excellent reviews and huge box office grosses, Paramount theatrically reissued Funny Face. As a result, the film drew substantial crowds and finally turned a profit.[citation needed]

Critical reception

Although generally well received in the United States, the reviewer for The Times was not impressed when the film opened at the Odeon in London on April 25, 1957: "...a displeasing piece of work, pseudo-sophisticated, expensive and brash in approach, vulgar in taste and insensitive in outlook. This, in fact, is the American "musical" at its worst; not even the presence of Mr Fred Astaire, who was in the original stage production, can save the day. It may seem extravagant to discuss a "musical" in terms proper to a serious creative work, yet there is that in the film's attitude towards the "intellectual", whether in Greenwich Village or Paris, which offends. It is not amiable parody and it is not telling satire; it has its roots in the ill-based instinct to jeer, and its jeers are offensive."[1]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 88% rating, based on 33 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10.[9]


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 America for "Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures" and for a "Golden Palm" at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival.[10] 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".[11]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Home media

To date, Funny Face has been released to DVD in Region 1 (North America) in three editions from Paramount Home Entertainment: in 2001 as part of the "Audrey Hepburn Widescreen Collection" series, in 2007 in a 50th Anniversary edition, and in 2009 as part of Paramount's Centennial Collection. The 2007 version has additional featurettes as well as improved picture and sound quality from the 2001 edition.[15] The 2009 release is spread over two discs and includes a few additional featurettes not included in the 2007 edition such as Kay Thompson's "Think Pink", "This is VistaVision" and "Fashion Photographers Exposed".

Cultural references

  • 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".
  • In 1991, Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast incorporates an allusion to Funny Face when Belle, who is also an intellectual and book lover, slides on a book shelf ladder similar to the one used in Jo Stockton's bookstore.
  • In 1992, the cover of the Madonna album Erotica was inspired by the famous photo Richard Avedon took of Audrey Hepburn for the movie.
  • In 1994, The Divine Comedy sampled a line of dialogue from the film on the song "The Booklovers", from the album Promenade.
  • In 2001, British singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor wore a variety of vintage fashion outfits and danced with several male dancers against a Parisian backdrop on the video for "Take Me Home", reminiscent of the film sequences in Paris night.
  • 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.
  • A new Barbie designed to look like Jo Stockton was only available to 2008 Barbie conventioneers.
  • Beyoncé pays homage to the film in her 2011 music video "Countdown" from her album 4.[16]
  • The scene where Jo (Hepburn) holds a bunch of multicoloured balloons in front of a cardboard cutout of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is alluded to in the epilogue of 2016 musical film La La Land.[17]
  • "Calypso," the 2018 episode of Star Trek: Short Treks written by Michael Chabon, features footage from Funny Face. In the film, a lost space traveler named Craft is rescued by the on-board computer AI ("Zora") of the USS Discovery, which is otherwise deserted. Zora shows Craft the film, and eventually the two perform the final dance from Funny Face in a holographic simulation, revealing Zora's romantic attachment to Craft and his own conflicted feelings. Zora later helps Craft begin his journey home, in a shuttle christened Funny Face as a nod to their bond over the film.

See also


  1. ^ a b The Times review 25 April 1957: Odeon Cinema: "Funny Face" with Fred Astaire
  2. ^ "FUNNY FACE (U)". British Board of Film Classification. February 1, 1957. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  3. ^ "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30.
  4. ^ Mahon, Gigi (1989-09-10). "S.I. Newhouse and Conde Nast; Taking Off The White Gloves".
  5. ^ Landazuri, Margarita. "Spotlight: Funny Face " - Turner Classic Movies
  6. ^ Puente, Maria. "Avedon pushed photography to the edge" - USA Today - October 1, 2004
  7. ^ Grundberg, Andy. "Richard Avedon, the Eye of Fashion, Dies at 81" - New York Times - October 1, 2004
  8. ^ Feeney, Mark. "Photographer Richard Avedon dies" - Boston Globe - October 2, 2004
  9. ^ "Funny Face (1957)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved November 19, 2015.
  10. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Funny Face". Retrieved 2009-02-08.
  11. ^ Funny Face awards - at IMDb
  12. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  13. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  14. ^ "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  15. ^ Keizer, Mark. "Funny Face - 50th Anniversary Edition" Archived October 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine - DVDFile - October 1, 2007
  16. ^ "Beyonce 'Countdown' Music Video Look By Look". MTV. Archived from the original on January 4, 2014. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  17. ^ Harris, Aisha (December 13, 2016). "La La Land's Many References to Classic Movies: A Guide". Slate. Retrieved May 13, 2017.

External links

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