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[Theater Thursday] PopCultHQ Presents: ‘Funny Face’ – Fashionable Fun

“I was taught that I ought not to expose my inner senses…” – Jo Stockton.

For all the great films an actress or actor makes, there is always one that is different from others. So travel down the river of time, back to 1957 for the latest movie excursion. Big doings happened at the time; Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat was published, the first Frisbee is produced by the Wham-O Company, and in February of 1957, Stanley Donen’s latest picture hit the big screens. A musical masterpiece starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire.

Audrey Hepburn (left) and Stanley Donen

Stanley Donen has always been one of the great directors. Working with the likes of Gene Kelly and other celebrated greats of the musical scene, Stanley’s career is one of showstoppers. As the uncontested “King of the Hollywood musicals,” Stanley was a force to be reckoned with. He is a man who could take any sort of plot, pair it with song, and produce a fabulous feature. In Funny Face, he takes viewers from the streets of Manhattan to the bright lights and smokey corners of late 50’s Paris. And the audience gets to take that trip with Audrey Hepburn.

Audrey’s character is a modern woman. She’s intelligent, graceful, speaks her mind. In New York, her world is one of books and work. In Paris, she’s surrounded by history, art and high culture. Traversing the city, people not only get to see the sights of Paris, but also some of its lesser scenic vistas, notably the cafes and underground clubs that were populated by the new thinkers and hip young people of the time. Not only does Audrey’s character Jo get to have her worldview widened, she also finds that one thing everyone wants in a Hollywood musical…she finds love, in the arms of Fred Astaire.

Fred was a Hollywood legend. On par with Gene Kelly, Fred’s success was more in the realm of dance before it spread out to song and acting. His role is not as high as in other pictures. Here, he’s a fashion photographer, a working man. What starts out as the latest project for Quality magazine, turns into a whirlwind adventure. Working together with Audrey to produce a set of photos about intellectual women, the impossible happens. They fall in love, amidst the wonder and glory of Paris. Not only does Fred get to have some quality acting with the leading lady, but together they have some fantastic songs and dances.

Audrey and Fred, Fred and Audrey. Alone and with each other, they break hearts and bring smiles. Both of them have some fun songs all of their in the film. Fred has a charming number called, take a guess, ‘Funny Face.’ He sings to Audrey, as they become friends while in New York, about how much he loves her “sunny funny face” and how beautiful she is. Audrey, on the other hand, gets a fast and frantic dance routine. A full on, no holds barred number in a French Bohemian club, with lots of wild movements accompanied by the band.

The duo’s biggest number is “He Loves and She Loves.” It’s a graceful, sweet, and moving song and dance, sung in the shadow of a quaint French church. After finally kissing, the couple start to sing and dance about falling in love with one another. Audrey is resplendent in the wedding gown worn for the photo shoot, and Fred looks casually dashing in his outdoor wear. Watching their dancing is like watching a painting come to life, the whole thing is picturesque and enchanting.

Movies like Funny Face are interesting to watch and enjoy. Not only does it provide the classic Hollywood musical tale, boy and girl meet and fall in love, but it also provides a bit of philosophy and a look into the burgeoning Bohemian movement of the late 50’s. Combine those elements with Stanley Donen’s directing and the excellent casting of Audrey and Fred, et voilá. A marvelous musical film that is one of the hallmarks of Audrey’s career and a super piece of classic movie mania. While other folks are making ready for Thanksgiving and getting out the Christmas decorations, take time to sit and relax. November is, after all, Audrey Hepburn month and that means treating one’s self to the works of one of Hollywood’s beloved leading ladies. This weekend or any time this month, make a point to view Funny Face and see what can come from such a story as this.

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