In the midst of the Corona pandemic, travel is something we all yearn for. We can’t go overseas like we may dream, but there still is one way to travel: through films shot in location.
In this month’s GG theme of travel, I took the opportunity to watch Funny Face (1957); I had not seen it fully through and this was perfect to watch, as it was shot in Paris.
Funny Face was almost tailor made for Audrey: Paris, a Cinderella transformation, and a great leading man to play off of, Mr Fred Astaire. It was Audrey’s fourth movie for Paramount, and 1 of 3 Astaire musicals set in Paris filmed in 1950s.
Funny Face is based of two Broadway sources; one: the musical Funny Face in which it takes its name, and two: the musical Wedding Bells, in which it takes the plot. Only 4 songs from the Funny Face musical make an appearance, with the other songs either written specifically for the film, or taken from other musicals. Unlike 1964’s My Fair Lady, Audrey does all of her own singing, as of course does Fred and Kay.
Funny Face sees Audrey as Jo Stockton, a bookshop worker, Fred Astaire as fashion photographer Dick Avery (based on real life photographer Richard Avedon), and Kay Thompson as Maggie Prescott, a fashion magazine editor. Maggie is looking for the “next big thing” and one day sets out with Dick and her team to use a Greenwich Village bookstore as an inspiration. Its there they cross paths with Jo: who at first isn’t interested in any part of it.
After the photo shoot, Dick stays behind when Maggie and co. leave, and gets to know Jo a bit better. In just the short time of the photos shoot, Dick becomes smitten with Jo, and after Dick leaves, Jo feels the same towards him.
Even though Jo dreams of going to Paris, being a fashion model is not on her radar. It’s only after she is tricked into coming to Maggie’s office on an errand, and accidentally runs into Dick again that she agrees to go.
Soon the trio arrive in Paris and the adventure begins- and so does Jo and Dick’s romance, (with a little help from Maggie)!
For me, I’m not a super fan of movie musicals, but there’s something about Funny Face that makes it an exception. The fashion and the beauty of Paris almost makes the music take a backseat. Audrey herself isn’t proficient singer, but you don’t care she’s not perfect. Her spirit and dedication to the role makes up for her lack.
Not to mention this musical is a definite precursor to the MOD era of the 60s. There are some scenes with the modeling and visual setups that is very reminiscent of Mad Men and 1960s magazines. After all, France is fashion forward, isn’t it?
Part of the film’s plot has to do with fashion, and with Paris as the backdrop you can’t go wrong. The first scene/ song and dance Bonjour Paris! takes you around various locations: from Notre Dame, to the Arch de Triumph, to of course the Eiffel Tower! Not to be forgotten is most famous image from this film takes place at the Louvre, with Audrey stepping down the steps, in the red dress with the scarf: its perfection!!!.
The coolest part of the movie is seeing Audrey enjoy herself. She worked extremely hard on the dance routines, keeping up with Fred Astaire’s every move. Audrey’s son Sean even mentioned in his memoir, Audrey: An Elegant Spirit, he believes this was his mother’s favorite movie she made because she got to dance with her idol, Fred, and utilize her ballet training.
I’m inclined to agree with Sean, as watching the bohemian nightclub self expression dance was super fun to watch! Audrey makes it look so fun and cool, and absolutely effortless! It kind of makes you want to do your own self expression dance!
Overall, I’m kind of mad at myself for not sitting down to fully watch this film and take in its fun and elegance. The songs are not necessarily ones to get stuck in your head, but the images this film projects will be. After all when you have the eternal beauty of Audrey and Paris, you can’t go wrong!