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Funny Girl (film)

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Title: Funny Girl (film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: 41st Academy Awards, William Wyler, Walter Pidgeon, AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs, 26th Golden Globe Awards
Collection: 1960S Comedy-Drama Films, 1960S Musical Comedy Films, 1960S Romantic Comedy Films, 1968 Films, American Biographical Films, American Comedy-Drama Films, American Films, American Musical Comedy Films, American Musical Drama Films, American Romantic Musical Films, Columbia Pictures Films, English-Language Films, Films About Entertainers, Films About Women, Films Based on Musicals, Films Directed by William Wyler, Films Featuring a Best Actress Academy Award Winning Performance, Films Featuring a Best Musical or Comedy Actress Golden Globe Winning Performance, Films Set in Baltimore, Maryland, Films Set in New York City, Films Set in the 1910S, Films Set in the 1920S, Films Shot in New Jersey, Musical Films Based on Actual Events
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Funny Girl (film)

Funny Girl
Post-Oscar release poster
Directed by William Wyler
Produced by Ray Stark
Written by Isobel Lennart
Based on Funny Girl
1964 musical 
by Isobel Lennart
Jule Styne
Bob Merrill
Starring Barbra Streisand
Omar Sharif
Kay Medford
Music by Jule Styne (Music)
Bob Merrill (Lyrics)
Cinematography Harry Stradling, Sr.
Edited by William Sands
Maury Winetrobe
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • September 18, 1968 (1968-09-18)
Running time
149 minutes
(Original release)[1]
155 minutes
(2002 re-release)[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $14.1 million
Box office $58,500,000[3]

Funny Girl is a 1968 romantic musical film directed by William Wyler. The screenplay by Isobel Lennart was adapted from her book for the stage musical of the same title. It is loosely based on the life and career of Broadway and film star and comedienne Fanny Brice and her stormy relationship with entrepreneur and gambler Nicky Arnstein.

The film was produced by Brice's son-in-law, Ray Stark. The score is by Bob Merrill (lyrics) and Jule Styne (music).

Barbra Streisand, reprising her Broadway role, shared the Academy Award for Best Actress with Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter.

In 2006, the 100 Years ... 100 Movie Quotes.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Musical numbers 3
  • Soundtrack 4
  • Production 5
  • Sequel 6
  • "Hello, gorgeous" 7
  • Jewish representation 8
  • Critical reception 9
  • Awards and nominations 10
  • Home media 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


Set in and around New York City just prior to and following World War I, the story opens with Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice (Barbra Streisand) awaiting the return of husband Nicky Arnstein (Omar Sharif) from prison, and then moves into an extended flashback focusing on their meeting and marriage.

Fanny is first seen as a stage-struck teenager who gets her first job in vaudeville and meets the suave Arnstein following her debut performance. They continue to meet occasionally over the years, becoming more romantically involved as Fanny's career flourishes and she becomes a star. Arnstein eventually seduces Fanny, who decides to abandon the Follies to be with him.

After winning a fortune playing poker while traveling aboard the RMS Berengaria, Nicky agrees to marry Fanny. They move into an expensive house and have a daughter, and Fanny eventually returns to Ziegfeld and the Follies. Meanwhile, Nicky's various business ventures fail, forcing them to move into an apartment. Refusing financial support from his wife, he becomes involved in a bonds scam and is imprisoned for embezzlement for eighteen months.

Following Nicky's release from prison, he and Fanny agree to separate.


Musical numbers

  1. "Overture"
  2. "If a Girl Isn't Pretty" - Fanny, Rose, Mrs. Strakosh
  3. "I'm the Greatest Star" - Fanny
  4. "Rollerskate Rag" - Fanny, Rollerskate Girls
  5. "I'd Rather Be Blue Over You (Than Happy With Somebody Else)" - Fanny
  6. "Second Hand Rose" - Fanny
  7. "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" - Fanny, Follies Ensemble
  8. "People" - Fanny
  9. "You Are Woman, I Am Man" - Nicky, Fanny
  10. "Don't Rain on My Parade" - Fanny
  11. "Entr'acte"
  12. "Sadie, Sadie" - Fanny, Nicky
  13. "The Swan" - Fanny
  14. "Funny Girl" - Fanny
  15. "My Man" - Fanny
  16. "Exit Music"

Although originally released on her 1964 album People, the song "People" was re-recorded for the movie with a different tempo and additional lyrics.

In the 1985 book Barbra Streisand: The Woman, the Myth, the Music by Shaun Considine, composer Jule Styne revealed he was unhappy with the orchestrations for the film. "They were going for pop arrangements," he recalled. "They dropped eight songs from the Broadway show and we were asked to write some new ones. They didn’t want to go with success. It was the old-fashioned MGM Hollywood way of doing a musical. They always change things to their way of vision, and they always do it wrong. But, of all my musicals they screwed up, Funny Girl came out the best."[4]

Because the songs "My Man," "Second Hand Rose," and "I’d Rather Be Blue" frequently were performed by the real Brice during her career, they were interpolated into the Styne-Merrill score.


1968 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack album cover

Released on the vinyl album format in stereo in 1968, the soundtrack was subsequently released in quadraphonic sound vinyl, cassette, and compact disc. The titles "Second Hand Rose" and "Exit Music" are omitted from the commercially-released soundtrack editions.


Isobel Lennart originally wrote Funny Girl as a screenplay for a drama film entitled My Man for producer Ray Stark, but when he offered it to Mary Martin, she suggested it might work better as a stage musical. Lennart consequently adapted her script for what eventually became a successful Broadway production starring Barbra Streisand.[5]

Although she had not made any films, Streisand was Stark's first and only choice to portray Brice onscreen. "I just felt she was too much a part of Fanny, and Fanny was too much a part of Barbra to have it go to someone else," he said, but Columbia Pictures executives wanted Shirley MacLaine in the role instead. MacLaine and Streisand were good friends and shared a birthday; both actresses rolled their eyes at the idea. Stark insisted if Streisand were not cast, he would not allow a film to be made, and the studio agreed to his demand.[4]

Gene Kelly were considered to direct the film before Sidney Lumet was signed. After working on pre-production for six months, he left the project due to "creative differences" and was replaced by William Wyler, whose long and illustrious award-winning career never had included a musical film; he originally was assigned to direct The Sound of Music. Wyler initially declined Stark's offer because he was concerned his significant hearing loss would affect his ability to work on a musical. After giving it some thought, he told Stark, "If Beethoven could write his Eroica Symphony, then William Wyler can do a musical."[4]

Streisand had never heard of Wyler, and when she was told he had won the Academy Award for Best Director for Ben-Hur, she commented, "Chariots! How is he with people, like women? Is he any good with actresses?" As for Wyler, he said, "I wouldn’t have done the picture without her." Her enthusiasm reminded him of Bette Davis, and he felt she "represented a challenge for me because she’s never been in films, and she’s not the usual glamour girl".[4]

In the film's finale, Streisand sings "My Man", a tune closely associated with Fanny Brice

Styne wanted Frank Sinatra for the role of Nicky Arnstein, but the actor was willing to appear in the film only if the role was expanded and new songs were added for the character. Stark thought Sinatra was too old and preferred someone with more class like Cary Grant, even though Grant was eleven years older than Sinatra.[5] Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Sean Connery, David Janssen, and James Garner were also considered. Egyptian Omar Sharif was cast to star opposite the Jewish Streisand after Wyler noticed him having lunch in the studio commissary. When the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt broke out, studio executives considered replacing Sharif, but both Wyler and Streisand threatened to quit if they did. Later, the publication of a still depicting a love scene between Fanny and Nicky in the Egyptian press prompted a movement to revoke Sharif's citizenship. When asked about the controversy, Streisand replied, "You think the Egyptians are angry? You should see the letter I got from my Aunt Rose!"[4] Anne Francis was cast in a new role as the lead chorine in the Ziegfeld Follies.[6]

Choreographer Herbert Ross, who staged the musical numbers, had worked with Streisand in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, her Broadway debut.[4]

Principal photography began in August 1967 and was completed by December.[7] During pre-recording of the songs, Streisand had demanded extensive retakes until she was satisfied with them, and on the set she continued to display her perfectionist nature, frequently arguing with Wyler about costumes and photography. She allegedly had so many of her scenes with Anne Francis cut before the film's release that Francis sued to have her name removed from the credits, but lost.[4] Streisand later claimed she never told Wyler to cut anything and the final film reflected his choices, not hers. Francis later said "I have no feud with Barbra. But doing that film was like Gaslight. What infuriated me was the way they did things—never telling me, never talking to me, just cutting. I think they were afraid that if they were nice to me, Barbra would have been upset."[8]


In 1975, Streisand reprised her role of Brice opposite James Caan as Brice's second husband, impresario Billy Rose, in a sequel entitled Funny Lady.

"Hello, gorgeous"

"Hello, gorgeous" are the first words uttered by Streisand in the film. After winning the

Since the release of the film, "Hello, gorgeous" has been referenced in several films. The line appeared as the name of Michelle Pfeiffer's salon in Married to the Mob. The line was also uttered by the character Max Bialystock in the film and Broadway show The Producers, but the inflection used by Zero Mostel in the 1968 film is different from that used by Streisand in Funny Girl. The line is also regularly peppered through popular culture.

In 2005, the line was chosen as #81 on the American Film Institute list, AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes.[9]

Jewish representation

In her book Talking Back: Images of Jewish Women in American Popular Culture, Joyce Antler writes that Streisand has created several rich images of a Jewish woman within film, Funny Girl being one of them. In Funny Girl, Antler writes, Streisand is able to portray a character that is obviously Jewish, and in this role she creates a space for the intelligent Jewish woman to be depicted. When Barbra Streisand appeared in Funny Girl in 1968, for the first time, a Jewish woman was on screen with Jewish features, a Jewish name and Jewish mannerisms. In this role the Jewish woman was presented as smart, comedic, beautiful and talented.[10]

Critical reception

In his review in Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert called Streisand "magnificent" and added, "She has the best timing since Mae West, and is more fun to watch than anyone since the young Katharine Hepburn. She doesn't actually sing a song at all; she acts it. She does things with her hands and face that are simply individual; that's the only way to describe them. They haven't been done before. She sings, and you're really happy you're there." But he thought "the film itself is perhaps the ultimate example of the roadshow musical gone overboard. It is over-produced, over-photographed and over-long. The second half drags badly. The supporting characters are generally wooden . . . That makes the movie itself kind of schizo. It is impossible to praise Miss Streisand too highly; hard to find much to praise about the rest of the film."[11]

Variety said Streisand makes "a marked impact" and continued, "The saga of the tragi-comedienne Fanny Brice of the ungainly mien and manner, charmed by the suave card-sharp Nicky Arnstein, is perhaps of familiar pattern, but it is to the credit of all concerned that it plays so convincingly."[12]

David Parkinson of the film monthly Empire rated the film four out of five stars and called it "one of those films where it doesn't really matter what gets written here - you will have made your mind up about Babs one way or the other, but for the rare uninitiated, this is a fine introduction to her talents."[13]

The film currently holds a 92% 'Fresh' rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus stating "[Barbra] Streisand elevates this otherwise rote melodramatic musical with her ultra-memorable star turn as Fanny Brice."[14]

Awards and nominations

In addition to Streisand's Oscar win as Best Actress, the film was nominated in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Medford, Best Cinematography for Stradling, Jr., Best Film Editing for Sands and Winetrobe, Best Scoring of a Musical Picture for Walter Scharf, Best Original Song for the title tune by Styne and Merrill, and Best Sound.[15] Funny Girl, along with Columbia Pictures' other Best Picture nominee and eventual winner Oliver! secured a combined total of 19 nominations; the most nominations for musicals from one studio in a year. Both of which were the only musical films of 1968 that achieved the same level of terrific enthusiasm and acclaim from critics and audiences as other big musicals of the 1960s.

Streisand won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and nominations went to the film, Wyler, and Styne and Merrill for the title song.

Streisand was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and nominations went to Stradling for Best Cinematography and Irene Sharaff for Best Costume Design.

Lennart won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical, and Wyler was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing - Feature Film.

Home media

The film was released on Region 1 DVD on October 23, 2001. It is in The Guilt Trip.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e f g
  5. ^ a b Taylor, Theodore, Jule: The Story of Composer Jule Styne. New York: Random House 1979. ISBN 0-394-41296-6, pp. 226-249
  6. ^
  7. ^ Barbra Streisand archives
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ reviewChicago Sun-Times
  12. ^ reviewVariety
  13. ^ reviewEmpire
  14. ^ Funny Girl at Rotten Tomatoes
  15. ^

External links

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