Funny Face (1957)

Sixty-four years ago today, the film Funny Face premiered. I adore this movie, and while Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire are of course brilliant, Kay Thompson steals everything. You need to watch this movie for all of her musical numbers. She is an icon.

Title: Funny Face
Directed by: Stanley Donen
Produced by: Roger Edens
Written by: Leonard Gershe
Starring : Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson, Michel Auclair, Robert Flemyng
Music by: Adolph Deutsch
Songs: George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Roger Edens
Cinematography: Ray June
Edited by: Frank Bracht
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date: February 13, 1957 (US), April 25, 1957 (UK)
Running time: 103 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English, French
Budget: $3 million
Box office: $2.5 million

Maggie Prescott, a fashion magazine publisher and editor for Quality magazine, is looking for the next big fashion trend. She wants a new look which is to be both “beautiful” and “intellectual”. She and top fashion photographer Dick Avery want models who can “think as well as they look.” The two brainstorm and come up with the idea to use a book store in Greenwich Village as backdrop.

They find what they want in “Embryo Concepts”, which is being run by the shy shop assistant and amateur philosopher, Jo Stockton. Jo thinks the fashion and modelling industry is nonsense, calling it “chichi, and an unrealistic approach to self-impressions as well as economics”. Maggie decides to use Jo but after the first shot Jo is locked outside to keep her from interrupting Maggie’s take-over of the shop. The crew leaves the store in a shambles; Dick stays behind to help clean up and apologizes to Jo, then kisses her impulsively. Jo dismisses him, but her song “How Long Has This Been Going On?” shows that she feels the stirrings of romance.

What Jo wants above all is to go to Paris and attend the famous professor Emile Flostre’s philosophy lectures about empathicalism. When Dick gets back to the darkroom, he sees something in Jo’s face which is new and fresh and would be perfect for the campaign, giving it “character”, “spirit”, and “intelligence”. They send for Jo, pretending they want to order some books from her shop. Once she arrives, they try to make her over and attempt to cut her hair. She is outraged and runs away, only to hide in the darkroom where Dick is working. When Dick mentions Paris, Jo becomes interested in the chance to see Professor Flostre and is finally persuaded to model for the magazine.

Soon, Maggie, Dick, and Jo are off to Paris to prepare for a major fashion event, shooting photos at famous landmarks from the area. During the various shoots, Jo and Dick fall in love. One night, when Jo is getting ready for a gala, she learns that Flostre is giving a lecture at a cafe nearby, which she attends. Eventually, Dick brings her back and they get into an argument at the gala’s opening, which results in Jo being publicly embarrassed and Maggie outraged.

Jo goes to talk to Flostre at his home. Through some scheming, Maggie and Dick gain entrance to the soirée there. After performing an impromptu song and dance for Flostre’s disciples, they confront Jo and Flostre. This leads to Dick causing Flostre to fall and knock himself out. Jo urges them to leave but when Flostre comes round, he tries to seduce her. Shocked at the behavior of her “idol”, she smashes a vase over his head and runs out, returning just in time to take part in the final fashion show. During this, Maggie tries to get in touch with Dick, who has made plans to leave Paris. Before her wedding gown finale, Jo looks out the window and sees the plane Dick was supposed to be on flying over the city. Believing that he has refused to return to her, she runs off the runway in tears at the conclusion of the show.

Meanwhile, Dick is still at the airport. He runs into Flostre and learns how Jo had attacked him. Realizing how much Jo cares, Dick returns to the fashion show, but Jo is nowhere to be found. Finally, after applying the insights of empathicalism at Maggie’s behest, Dick guesses that Jo would return to the church where he had photographed her in a wedding dress and they shared their first romantic moment. On his arrival there himself, he finds Jo (in the wedding gown) by a little brook. They join in the duet “‘S Wonderful” and embrace.

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