funny-face-dec-12thAlthough the pairing of leading actors Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn, is somewhat incongruous, Stanley Donen directs to all the cast’s strengths in this engaging film about the fashion business. Astaire as photographer Dick Avery discovers his muse (Hepburn) and catapults her to fame as a fashion model. Kay Thompson as magazine editor Maggie Prescott often steals the screen, as does the Parisian fashion shoot backdrop. Adding an intellectual dimension is Prof Emile Flostre with a nod towards Jean-Paul Sartre. Ms (Miss?) Hepburn’s Givenchy wardrobe completes the glamour. “Combine the moves of Fred Astaire, the grace of Audrey Hepburn and the talents of … Stanley Donen … then add … Paris and … Gershwin … and what have you got?” – John Farr ‘Best Movies by Farr’ (Cert U)
Dir: Stanley Donen 103 mins USA 1957

Programme Notes

Funny Face
USA, 1957, 103 mins, Cert U

Fred Astaire, in one of his later roles, plays fashion photographer Dick Avery, who is given the task of discovering a “new face”. (Avery is based on Richard Avedon, who with a credit as “visual consultant” contributed photographs seen in the film). The “new face” is played by Hepburn, who becomes an enormously successful model; Avery falls madly in love with her. While everyone, almost, knows that Hepburn didn’t do her own singing in My Fair Lady, in this film she did. She did her own dancing, too, having trained for ballet and been a chorus girl in London stage musicals.

Sight and Sound disapproved of the film’s anti-intellectualism and they may have been right, but then writer Leonard Gershe may have been right to include it. (He also scripted the Astaire vehicle, Silk Stockings, 1957).

Stanley Donen had an illustrious career and is probably underrated these days through being rather ignored. He started as a dancer, quickly became a choreographer and then a director of film musicals. He directed On the Town (1949) , Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and The Pajama Game (1957), the first two jointly with Gene Kelly, with whom he appears to have had a difficult relationship, with resentments continuing for decades. In the 60s he lived in Britain and with far fewer musicals being produced he turned to other genres. Examples would be Charade (1963), Arabesque (1966), Two for The Road (1967) and Bedazzled (1967). In all he directed almost 30 feature films. (mb)

Jo Stockton – Audrey Hepburn
Dick Avery – Fred Astaire
Maggie Prescott – Kay Thompson
Prof. Emile Flostre – Michel Auclair
Paul Duval – Robert Flemyng
Marion – Dovima

Director – Stanley Donen
Screenplay – Leonard Gershe
Cinematography – Ray June
Editor – Frank Bracht
Art direction – Hal Pereira, George W Davis
Songs – George and Ira Gershwin
Producer – Roger Edens


“Pure schmaltz, beautiful dancing, sets and, of course, the photogenic Audrey, who looked amazing!”

“Excellent – for the last one of the year”

“Very entertaining and nostalgic. Sometimes a bit OTT but I loved it.”

“Charming and simple. A bit too sweet in parts but it was enjoyable.”

“Nice retro – fantastic acting and dancing. Enjoyable.”

“Corny – but had enough charm to see it through.”

“Enjoyable if lightweight”

“Delightful froth or over-ripe Camembert, depending on your point of view!”

“Excellent example of its genre. Preferred the dancing to the songs but the frills and costumes were enjoyable. Less enjoyable was the ’50s American colonial attitude to Paris, France and the French language!”

“I enjoyed this film, slightly to my surprise, and I am a stickler for making the distinction between sympathy and empathy!”

“I enjoyed this but I don’t think it has improved with age!”

“I wish I was allowed to stereotype like that!”

“A funny film but not in the comedic sense. The dance routines were good, whilst the plot was at times predictable. Worth a look, however, for fans of of Fred Astaire and the work of Stanley Donen.”

“I hate musicals with an abhorrence I could write poetry about but this was so superbly produced that I couldn’t help but find it … tolerable.”

“Didn’t seem to transfer too well to DVD, especially the sound. I can see why Audrey Hepburn wouldn’t have done very well on Strictly or the X Factor – a good actress but not up to the standard of Kay Thompson or Fred Astaire!”

“I thought it was going to be a Paris Tourist Board film – there certainly wasn’t much storyline.”

“The fashion part of the film was very, very BORING and the bits of dancing were OK but not Astaire’s best. The story was REALLY, REALLY BORING but at least the sound quality was quite good.”

“The sound was not great and the speech unclear.”

“Beyond parody. I couldn’t make out what they were saying most of the time but it probably didn’t matter. I know the story isn’t meant to matter but shouldn’t the music be worth listening to? And does anyone else find Fred Astaire a bit creepy?”


A:6, B:13, C:9, D:3, E:1 to give 66%