Funny Face (1957)

During our sojourn in Kentucky, my Audrey collection (already not too shabby: Roman Holiday, Sabrina, My Fair Lady, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Love in the Afternoon and Charade–good god, that’s a lot) was increased by two. And that makes me happy.

Up first: Funny Face.

Funny Face is a 1957 musical starring Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Kay Thompson.

Audrey Hepburn plays Jo Stockton, a Greenwich Village bookstore clerk who dresses primarily in dark clothes, is well-versed and speaks constantly about various philosophies and vehemently and eloquently asserts her rights as an individual when a flashy magazine editor ignores her opinions. I think the word “phenomenologically” is used. Have I mentioned I love this movie? And that I kind of love her character way more before her transformation? Though I refuse to believe you have to choose… more on that later.

The bookshop is intriguing. Forget the movie–I just want to poke around in all of those books!

Before her “rescue” from the dreary life of intellectualism (sigh) she belongs in a Woody Allen movie. But instead of finding someone with whom to argue about Rothko, she runs off to Paris to wear pink. Which is, of course, a valid choice. But I refuse to believe the two choices are mutually exclusive. I choose instead to revel in the multiplicity of options available. Because I like the word “phenomenologically”. And pink.

Fred Astaire is Dick Avery, a (much older) fashion photographer who “discovers” Audrey/Jo while on a fashion shoot for Quality magazine that ends up peremptorily appropriating the bookstore in which Audrey/Jo is employed. After viewing the shots he took of the model in the bookstore, he is entranced by the *ahem* funny face of the bookstore employee in the background and proposes that she be featured in a major Paris story.

Kay Thompson (author of the Eloise books) is Maggie Prescott, the very important editor of Quality magazine, the magazine for which Astaire works. (Think the power of Miranda Priestly or Anna Wintour, but played for laughs.)

Kay Thompson has one of my favorite numbers in the movie: “Think Pink!” She is reviewing the upcoming issue of Quality, and is bored the theme of the magazine. (“The American woman is standing outside, naked, just waiting for me to tell her what to put on. And I’m bored!”) As she is ranting to her adoring staff, one of the chic secretaries flips open a beautiful pink cigarette case to provide a light for Kay/Maggie. She stops and cries “Think Pink!”

(I bought a pair of very ladylike pink wrist-length gloves in a little antique shop in Princeton, Kentucky, with this song in mind… I’m dreaming of wearing them to an upcoming wedding, but not quite sure if I have the chutzpah. We shall see.)

After an ugly-duckling transformation in which Audrey goes from “dowdy thinker” to “alluring female” (cue collective eye-roll) the three of them go to Paris to sing and dance amongst the beautiful scenery.

And, of course, to fall in love. Just Fred and Audrey, though. Kay is left out. Oddly enough, there aren’t very many threesomes in 50’s musicals.

I love this song.

In 2006, the Gap used a clip from Funny Face of Audrey dancing in a French Bohemian haunt to introduce their black skinny pant. Instead of the sax and bongos, they used AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”

As Regina Lampert claims of her newly-emptied Parisian apartment, I think I like it better this way.

I don’t particularly love the way the movie consistently pokes fun at Audrey’s intellectualism—the implication is that she is using her brain at the beginning of the movie because her heart is untouched; as soon as she falls in love she trades in the little black pants she wears to the cafe for a pretty white wedding dress that she wears to a secluded little chapel. Which makes me sigh. 

Stunted and stultifying assumptions about the scope of women’s interests aside, I think the movie is still quite wonderful.

Hooray for musty bookshops and dingy cafes. And for gorgeous dresses.

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