Musical Monday: “Funny Face” (1957)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

funny face posterThis week’s musical:
Funny Face” -Musical #32

Paramount Pictures

Stanley Donen

Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Kay Thompson
Model cameos: Dovima, Suzy Parker, Sunny Hartnett

An intellectual book store clerk (Hepburn) gets caught up in a fashion shoot. Photographer Dick Avery (Astaire)-based off of real life photographer Richard Avedon- feels she would add something unique to the fashion magazine he works for.

Fred Astaire's character was modeled after photographer Richard Avedon. Astaire is pictured with model, Dovima.

Fred Astaire’s character was modeled after photographer Richard Avedon. Astaire is pictured with model, Dovima.

-This movie was originally going to be an MGM film in the Freed Unit. However, since both Astaire and Hepburn were both working for Paramount, the film was moved to that studio. The MGM executives also weren’t in love with the script, according to The Fifties: Transforming the Screen, 1950-1959 by Peter Lev.
-Fred Astaire only wanted Audrey Hepburn for the film. Filming was delayed, because she wanted husband Mel Ferrer to be with her, according to “Audrey: A Life in Pictures” by Carol Krenz.
-Hepburn was self-conscious about being too skinny and flat chested. Fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy said everyone would be looking more at her eyes, Krenz said.
-Astaire’s role is based on the life of famed fashion photographer Richard Avedon. Stanley Donen hired Avedon for the visual consultant, according to “The Audrey Hepburn Treasures.”
-During the “He Loves, She Loves” number when Hepburn is in the wedding dress, it was difficult for Astaire and Hepburn to dance due to slippery and muddy grass.
-Hepburn’s own dog appears in the train fashion shoot scene.
-The white socks Hepburn wears in the jazz dancing scene caused trouble on set. Hepburn thought all black, including the socks looked better. Director Stanley Donen said if she wore all black, she would fade into the the background in the dimly lit scene and there would be no definition in her movement, according to the Sam Irvin book “Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise.”

-“Think Pink” isn’t an excellent song but the pink fashion sequence that goes along with the song is to die for. The number has models, including famous Suzy Parker, modeling pink bathing suits, day wear, evening gown and using pink shampoo and tooth paste.

Funny Face pink photogrid

“Think Pink” fashion segment in “Funny Face.” Models include Sunny Hartnett and Suzy Parker. (Film strip made by Comet Over Hollywood)

-The fashion shoot with Audrey Hepburn. The different scenarios are fun and the clothes are gorgeous.

model funny face

Audrey Hepburn fashion shoot (Film strip made by Comet Over Hollywood)

Notable Songs:
All of the music is by George and Ira Gershwin, so most of it is familiar and fairly enjoyable. However, some of the songs aren’t as recognizable Gershwin favorites like “Lady Be Good” and “I Got Rhythm.”
-“Funny Face” sung by Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn as he convinces Hepburn to model. Probably the most memorable song in the film.
-“S’Wonderful” sung by Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn
-“Let’s Kiss and Make Up” sung by Fred Astaire
-“How Long Has This Been Going On?” sung by Audrey Hepburn

My Review:
Though it’s said Fred Astaire wouldn’t do the film without Audrey Hepburn, Astaire is sadly wasted in this film. Astaire has two major dance numbers, but I don’t feel like it gives him an opportunity to really show off his talent.
However, “Funny Face” gives Audrey Hepburn a rare time to show off her dancing skills on screen. Hepburn originally trained to be a ballet dancer before going into films. Hepburn dances with Astaire and does the bohemian jazz, modern dance number.
Hepburn also does her own singing, rather than being dubbed like she was in “My Fair Lady.” Her voice, though, is better suited for the Gershwin tunes than the operatic score of “My Fair Lady.”
On a whole, though the plot isn’t fantastic- this movie is GORGEOUS. Beautiful color, beautiful clothing and my favorite are the fashion montages.
On a personal note: This film taught me the definition of empathy and made me want a black turtleneck.

Astaire and Hepburn dancing in "Funny face"

Astaire and Hepburn dancing in “Funny face”

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Classic movies in music videos: Countdown by Beyonce

This is October’s edition of Comet Over Hollywood’s film references in music videos.

Beyonce’s channels Audrey Hepburn in her music video “Countdown” released in October of 2011.

About 15 seconds into the video, Beyonce can be seen wearing a beatnik style outfit complete with a black turtleneck, black pants, white socks and black loafers.

Beyonce channels Audrey Hepburn from  "Funny Face" (1957) in her 2011 video "Countdown"

Beyonce channels Audrey Hepburn from
“Funny Face” (1957) in her 2011 video “Countdown”

The outfit is reminiscent of the outfit Audrey Hepburn wears in the 1957 musical “Funny Face.” In the film, Hepburn plays an intellectual shop girl who is transformed into a model.  Hepburn is taken to Paris but has more interest in talking with the beatnik crowd.

Audrey Hepburn dances in a beatnik cafe in "Funny Face" (1957)

Audrey Hepburn dances in a beatnik cafe in “Funny Face” (1957)

The white socks Hepburn wears in the scene caused trouble on set.

Hepburn thought all black, including the socks looked better. Director Stanley Donen said if she wore all black, she would fade into the the background in the dimly lit scene and there would be no definition in her movement, according to the Sam Irvin book “Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise.”

Hepburn burst into tears, went into her dressing room but came out wearing the white socks. Later she sent Donen a note saying he was right about the socks, according to Irvin.

Along with “Funny Face,” Beyonce also briefly references “Fame,” Twiggy in a Vogue shoot, “Dreamgirls” and “Flashdance.”

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Audrey Hepburn: The Sorority Girl’s Pin-Up

You may see this image on a daily basis if you go to college.

On a college campus you can’t miss the familiar outline of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) with her cigarette holder while wearing a long black gown on the back of a sorority T-shirt. And of course under that photo will be Chanel’s quote “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” (Though that is completely ironic, because Givenchy dressed Hepburn in most of her films).

If you don’t believe me, scroll through this blog that describes itself as a “celebration of Greek Life.” There are at least 4 posts about both Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel.

Sororities have taken the stylish, gamine star and are using her as their unofficial spokes person for the pay-for-your-friends groups.

Photoshopped Audrey Hepburn head on an ADPI body.

She is on their t-shirts, event fliers, posters in their dorm rooms, coffee cups, keychains and Facebooks. Miss Hepburn helps announce fall and spring recruitment, formals and bake sales they have to raise money for their charities. If Audrey Hepburn was a business, it would be one of the wealthiest companies in the United States.

Once in my photography class, I even heard a boy ask who Audrey Hepburn was and my friend Dominic Beamer responded, “You know, she’s that lady who is on the back of all of the sorority t-shirts.”

But why pick on Audrey Hepburn? At the start of her career, she was described as having enormous eyebrows, rat chewed bangs and horse teeth. Does that sound glamorous or sexy?

I think a large part is the Givenchy outfits in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”  Who can forget the black dress she wears in front of Tiffany’s, the pink party dress she wears when Fred dies or even her brown trench coat?  However, Givenchy also designed the clothes for “Sabrina“, “Charade” and “How to Steal a Million.” Why don’t we see an outline of Audrey in that crazy helmet hat from “How to Steal a Million” or the dress she wows the Lamarees with at the exclusive dinner party in “Sabrina.”

Audrey Hepburn was one of my first favorite actresses when my movie love began. My love with her started with “Sabrina” and then Funny Face.”  I eventually made my way around to “Breakfast At Tiffany’s.”

When I first saw it in the 8th grade I had no clue what was going on: Why is she getting arrested? Why did he give her $50 to go to the powder room? What is Patricia Neal’s deal?  Now that I’m older, I understand the drug and sexual references; “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” is covering some pretty serious stuff.  I often wonder if these girls who say it’s their favorite movie watch it for the glamour of Givenchy’s clothes and George Preppard’s good looks or if they have even seen it at all.  Are they looking at the deeper meaning that Truman Capote wrote about in his novel: a woman toying with the idea of bisexuality?  Audrey Hepburn even felt like she was miscast in the role.

An example of Audrey Hepburn on a T-shirt.

Audrey Hepburn was glamorous in the movies, but like most actresses, didn’t have a fabulous personal life.
•She hid in a cellar from the Nazi’s during World War 2. She and her mother lived in occupied Holland and were forced to eat tullip bulbs and grass. This is what lead to her eating disorder later on in life.
• She wanted to be a ballerina but was told that she was too tall.
• Audrey had a difficult time getting pregnant. She was pregnant at the start of the movie “The Unforgiven” but was thrown from the horse and suffered a miscarriage-along with a broken back.
• Audrey had two failed marriages: One with actor Mel Ferrer and another with Andrea Dotti who cheated on her.
• While filming “My Fair Lady,” Hepburn worked very hard learning the songs and desperately wanted to sing. In the end she was dubbed my Marnie Nixon. Hepburn later said she wouldn’t have agreed to the film had she known this.
• She was constantly self conscious about her flat chest, thinness and looks. She was very uncomfortable and unhappy during the movie “Funny Face” and wanted Mel Ferrer with her during all times.
• Robert Wolders lived with her at the end of her life….(I feel like he was someone who just swooned the older actresses and wanted their money).

Standard Coco Chanel quote

However, Audrey Hepburn also was a wonderful woman who had a love for gardens and spent the end of her life  doing work with UNICEF. She was also a great actress who won an Oscar for “Roman Holiday.” It’s a shame to me that she has her image defamed on brainless, comic sans-fonted sorority t-shirts.

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Let’s talk about a little pet peeve of mine…

Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney) surrounded by Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford), Betsy Booth (Judy Garland) and Cynthia Potter (Lana Turner).

How I define a classic movie fan and my pet peeve of the old movie ‘posers’ . I know I am a little fanatical and old movies are my life, but if you are going to claim to like old movies you have to know your stuff.

Another thing that drives me crazy is what consumers and manufacturers consider when it comes to classic movie merchandise (not including books, there is an abundance of wonderful film books). Everywhere you go, you see mugs, purses, T-shirts, magnets, etc with four people on them 1.) Marilyn Monroe 2.) Audrey Hepburn 3.) James Dean 4.) John Wayne. Then I go to Los Angeles with high hopes of Doris Day and Esther Williams merchandise, but I was quickly dismayed. In Hollywood, the movie mecca of the world, they still carried the same crap that they sell in Greenville, South Carolina. (Don’t get me wrong, I like Dean, Wayne and Hepburn but I want some variety.)

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