More color. 70’s color! 70’s color about the ’20s and ’30s! The ’70s don’t get enough credit for some lovely furs because, well, it’s hard to see anything in the shadow of the blinding brilliance of the ’80s. Most period pieces are a product of their time, so lucky for us; there was no problem with big furs in the ’70s. Let’s yuck it up with a Funny Lady.
Funny Lady – The Film
Funny Lady (1975) is a sequel to the film Funny Girl (1968), a biopic of Fanny Brice, an early success in stage, radio, and film. Starring Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl was one of her first big hits. There’s a bit of fur in Funny Girl, for what it’s worth, but it’s from the ’60s about the Teens and ’20s, so it’s yawn-worthy. Funny Lady deals with Brice’s later life in the ’30s (yeah!) and her marriage to showman Billy Rose (James Caan).
Funny Lady – The Furs
As Brice, the subject of this two-hour-plus biopic, Streisand does most, but not quite all, the fur wearing. Brice is depicted as the classic Hollywood star from the period, including many furs. One of the reasons I’m rather fond of that period, indeed.
The opening scenes are set earlier, in the late ’20s, and the costume designer (sadly) went for a bit of realism. Brice wears some dark, short-haired furs, such as this wrap.
Followed by this, another bit of brown fur trimming a fabric top. The horizontal pelt work is mildly interesting. This scene also features Miss Brice smoking in fur, using a short cigarette holder.
Finally, someone remembers they were designing costumes in the ’70s. Here’s a lovely white fox stole, with Fanny’s somewhat “signature” cigarette holder. Good shot of the white fox here, very high on the shoulder.
Streisand spends most of this lengthy sequence seated, but there is a short shot of her changing seats where we see more of the white fox stole.
The cinematographer rightly keeps Streisand in frame most of the time, and most of the time, she’s smoking with that cigarette holder.
“Most” of the time. Probably one of the few on the planet who’d notice this, I admit, but Fanny “mysteriously” misplaces the holder at the very end of the scene. Here she is smoking without it right before leaving. This will not go down as one of the great goofs of cinematic history. I’ll tell you the greatest goof: the character Helen Shirley wears two different full-length fox coats at the end of Christmas Vacation, one outside, one inside.
Time to move on to the marquee fur. One that’s hard to describe, and I like it when that happens. It shows some creativity on the part of the costume designers. The fox appears to be a wrap/collar made from tails with a more easy-to-describe matching fox muff.
Like the white fox stole, this item also receives the attention it deserves in this long sequence between Streisand and Caan. It includes a few nice closeups.
And we see it from a few angles, always a nice bonus.
It also tickles my preference for colors that don’t occur in nature. It looks like a lovely, dark, richly saturated plum-dyed fox.
Streisand doesn’t do all the heavy lifting in the film, though if you blink, you’ll miss the other stuff. Well, not quite, but certainly nothing major. This lady in an external shot with the black fox trim probably isn’t even visible if you do not see the film in its original aspect ratio.
Next is the part of the film that almost becomes “padding.” It’s a black fox stole, though, a perfectly nice one. Sadly it’s worn in a very “moodily” lit sequence over a black dress (which, fashionably speaking, is a great match). So it’s tough to see a lot of the time.
Not all the time, of course, and this shot at the mirror where Fanny lights up for another smoke while wearing the stole is quite clear. It moves from this to an entire musical number on a dimly lit stage that doesn’t do the stole much justice again.
Here is another non-Streisand fur, a nice one, but a quick one. This blue fox stole needed a better, more extended shot.
It also needs to be in a shot that doesn’t remind me that karakul is considered a “fur.” I’d say it’s a fur I actually “hate,” but I don’t think it’s fur, just some sick joke by someone who wanted to associate one of the ugliest things you can wear with one of the most beautiful.
We do end on a better note, though this one is quite literally a “blink, and you’ll miss it” fur. Brice leaves her radio show, pulling on this full silver fox stroller coat. It’s around for a couple of seconds in a hallway and then a few more in a very wide shot outside the studio.
Twenty minutes of fur sounds impressive, but the move is over 2 hours long, so the ratio clocks in at 15%. According to the Wikipedia article, they had to cut to get the film to that length. I hope there weren’t any more great furs that ended up on the cutting room floor. Funny Girl is a solid entry and worthy addition to any library. Fanny’s smoking habit and affection for holders will be polarizing for some, I suppose, but obviously, I’m in the ‘pro’ camp on that one. If I had to nitpick, I’d say the holder was a little too short.
Fur Runtime: approx 20 minutes
Film Runtime: 136 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 15%