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Funny Girl (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 21, 2013 by  



funnygirl

“Funny Girl” is an enjoyable musical, while not the great American musical to appear on film, it’s one of the most memorable musicals thanks to the performance of Barbara Streisand.  If there is a film that captures the slogan of “A Star is Born”, then “Funny Girl” is that film as it introduced the world to the amazing talent of Barbara Streisand.  And the film has never looked as brilliant as it does now on Blu-ray…. Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1968, 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Lincoln: Funny Girl

FILM RELEASE: 1968

DURATION: 155 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:3:51), English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, French, Italian, German and Spanish 5.0 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH, Arabic, Chinese (traditional and simplified), French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Thai and Turkish.

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: G

Release Date: April 30, 2013

Directed by William Wyler

Based on the original story and play by Isobel Lennart

Screenplay by Isobel Lennart

Produced by Ray Stark

Music by Jule Styne

Cinematography by Harry Stradling Sr.

Edited by William Sands, Maury Winetrobe

Production Design by Gene Callahan

Art Direction by Robert Luthardt, Linus Aaberg

Set Decoration by William Kiernan

Starring:

Barbara Streisand as Fanny Bryce

Omar Sharif as Nick Arnstein

Kay Medford as Rose Brice

Anne Francis as Georgia JAmes

Walter Pidgeon as Florenz Ziegfeld

Lee Allen as Eddie Ryan

Mae Questel as Mrs. Strakosh

Gerald Mohr as Branca

Frank Faylen as Keeney

Mittie Lawrence as Emma

One of the most popular movie musicals ever made! FUNNY GIRL follows the early career of stage comedienne Fanny Brice, a role that earned Barbra Streisand the 1968 Oscar® for Best Actress. As the film opens, only her mother believes Fanny can make it in show business. When she gets her first break at Keeney’s Music Hall, her hilarious debut as a roller-skating chorus girl gets her hired as a comedienne. A year later Fanny is working for Florenz Ziegfeld in his famous Follies and brings the house down with an outrageous and unplanned number. Fanny becomes a star, falls in love and marries Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif), a handsome gambler whose luck doesn’t hold up. The film’s many memorable songs include “Don’t Rain On My Parade” and the Streisand classic “People.”

Fanny Brice will forever be known for her contribution as a Ziegfield girl during the early 1900’s, her work as an accomplished illustrated song model, comedian, singer, theater and film actress but possibly for creating the top-rated radio series, “The Baby Snooks Show”.

For well-known producer and Brice’s son-in-law Ray Stark, he commissioned an authorized biography of Brice using the various taped recollections she had dictated, but was not too thrilled by it.

While it cost Stark $50,000 to stop the publication of the biography titled “The Fabulous Fanny”, Stark then wanted to create a biopic but of the ten writers who wrote the screenplay, none were good enough for the producer.

But reading the screenplay, Broadway star Mary Martin recommended to Stark of possibly making a musical of Fanny Brice’s career and Isobel Lennart would begin writing the musical loosely based on the life of Brice and her stormy relationship with entrepreneur and gambler Nicky Arnstein.

But after a few troubles of finding a Jewish star to portray Brice, it was recommended that Barbara Streisand, star of the musical “Can Get It For You Wholesale” to be given the opportunity.

And by 1964, after 17 previews and revisions, the Broadway production of “Funny Girl” began.  13 years after the death of Fanny Brice, who died at the age of 59 in 1951.

By 1968, filmmaker William Wyler (“Ben Hur”, “Roman Holiday”, “The Best Years of Our Lives”) would begin working on the film adaptation of the musical.  Barbara Streisand would reprise her role as Fanny Brice and her role would earn her an Academy Award for Best Actress, shared with Katharine Hepburn for “The Lion in the Winter”.

The film would also become the box office winner of 1968 in the U.S. and the American Film Institute would rank the film in 2006 as the #16 musical of all time.

And in 2013, the all-new 4K restoration re-mastered in HD from a 4K source will be released on Blu-ray in April 2013.

“Fanny Brice” is a musical that is set after World War I and begins with Fanny Brice (portrayed by Barbara Streisand) revisiting the theatre which she once performed as a Ziegfeld girl, waiting for the release of her husband Nick Arnstein (portrayed by Omar Sharif).

The film then goes back showing us how Fanny Brice became a Ziegfeld Follies star.   For Brice, she just wants a shot at stardom and showoff her musical talent.

By taking a job on stage as a vaudeville talent, lying that she could ride on roller skates, Brice ends up winning the audience’s attention and earns the attention of Nick Arnstein, a businessman and gambler.

Arnstein manages to boost her pay and eventually Brice would become a Ziegfeld Follies star.

As Brice becomes popular, she eventually becomes closer with Nick and the two fall in love.  To the point in which Fanny chooses Nick over Ziegfeld Follies.

Nick ends up winning a fortune through poker and the both Fanny and Nick get married, buy an expensive house and have a daughter together.

But while Fanny’s career is doing quite well, Nick’s business ventures are failing.  And because of his ego as a man, he refuses any financial support from Fanny.

And Nick becomes involved with illegal business deals.  But what will happen to both Fanny Brice and Nick once he is released from prison?

VIDEO:

“Funny Girl” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  The film received a 4K restoration from an original 4K source and is presented in HD via Blu-ray for the very first time.  The colors are absolutely beautiful and there is a fair amount of grain that can be seen throughout the film.

The detail for the film is much better than the original DVD when it comes to detail and vibrant colors.  Detail is much more apparent and where backgrounds were a bit blurry on the DVD release, now you can see details that are much more apparent.   But the biggest difference are how robust the colors are on Blu-ray.  No doubt that this is the best looking version of the film to date.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Funny Girl” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French, German and Spanish 5.0 Dolby Digital.  Dialogue and music is clear and this is probably the best we will hear of “Funny Girl”.  One may wish for a bit more music immersiveness  with the soundtrack but it stays true to the original and sounds crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Arabic, Chinese (traditional and simplified), French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Thai and Turkish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Funny Girl” comes with the following special features:

  • Barbara in Movieland – (10:09) A classic featurette from 1969 about how Charlie Peterson’s train station was used for the filming of “Funny Girl” and behind-the-scenes footage from the film but also how Peterson was also given a role for the film by director William Wyler.
  • This is Streisand – (5:34) An old 1968 featurette introducing musical star Barbara Streisand and her film debut for “Funny Girl”.

As a fan of silent films and early cinema, especially early radio, I was first introduced to Fanny Brice through the radio program “The Baby Snooks Show”.

As a frequent follower of old time radio, discovering Fanny Brice led me to the loose adaptation of her life in “Funny Girl” but also was the film that helped introduce me to Barbara Streisand, as my only knowledge of the actress was through “The Way We Were” and “Lentl”.

But there is no doubt that I can see the attraction to Streisand as an actress.  From her incredible voice and sassy-ness, similar to the character she plays, she is a natural talent born for the stage and in the case of “Funny Girl”, while considered a loose adaptation, possibly the latest Fanny Brice would have been thrilled to see about the character portrayal.

I agree with film critic Pauline Kael who wrote about Streisand, “There’s hardly a star in American movies today, and if we’ve got so used to the absence of stars in that we no longer think about it much, we’ve also lost on of the great pleasures of moviegoing: watching incandescent people up there, more intense and dazzling than people we ordinarily encounter in life, and far more charming that the extraordinary people we encounter, because the ones up on screen are objects of pure contemplation-like athletes all wound up in the stress of competition – and we don’t have to undergo the frenzy or the risks of being involved with them.”

The musical of “Funny Girl” is supported by fans, especially for its music with songs such as “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade” sung by the character of Brice and “You Are Woman” by the characters of Nick Arnstein and Fanny Brice.  But it was also a positive film about one woman with confidence that she has the talent to make it big, even if those around her, thought of her as not so beautiful or judgmental.  Yes, both Streisand and even Brice had an identifiable nose, so what?  Hollywood musicals have been to ingrained with the idea that a woman must have the look of a super starlet in order to drive box office sales, but Streisand, who is beautiful but also talented, goes to show how she can sparkle and dazzle the audience with her acting and outstanding voice.

And because of her delivery, she makes the dialogue seem natural.    And I can see why many film critics went crazy for this film and for Barbara Streisand, she was a rarity then and even now, you don’t see actresses who have that much talent and still entertain audiences and filling up seats decades later.

And while the film is slightly positive for both Fanny Brice and Nick Arnstein, the film is entertainment and while taken care of by Brice’s son-in-law and popular Hollywood producer Ray Stark, I do feel it’s important for people to know that the film is primarily non-fiction with a few facts of the actual Brice and Arnstein mixed in to the overall story.

For one, Fanny Brice was not a struggling singer, she came from a well-off family.  Baby Snooks was not created during her time at Ziegfeld and possibly the two major factual omissions to the film was that in real life, Arnstein was married to another woman before marrying Fanny and that he was busted by authorities twice.  And unlike the film, Brice had two children that she took care of, while Arnstein disappeared from their lives temporarily.

While the divorce was mutual, the facts are that the real Fanny Brice did all she could for her family and even spent a lot of money in order to defend Arnstein.  While their relationship on the film seemed problematic due to his illegal business dealings, the fact is that things were not as simple as it was in the film.

Granted, I’m sure it was difficult for Ray Stark and that is why there were so many writers taking a chance on this storyline, hoping one would appease him.   For Stark, his mother-in-law did not want her biography being published with the audio dictations that were done.   And while the musical and the film came years after her death, Arnstein was still alive when the musical was made.

I suppose that in order to appease both sides, to create something entertaining and a musical was more appealing to audiences and the fact that the musical had done so well, it’s confirmation that people loved the melodramatic aspect of the storyline, the music and of course, the performance by Barbara Streisand, who brought that excitement from the stage to the big screen.

And here we are in 2013 with a restoration of the film in 4K.  The film looks fantastic and better than any video incarnation released so far.  The film manages to capture the colors, the details and even backgrounds or people in the background are seen with much clarity than the previous DVD release.  And the lossless soundtrack is in HD!  And you also get two classic short special features included with this release as well.

Overall, “Funny Girl” is an enjoyable musical, while not the great American musical to appear on film, it’s one of the most memorable musicals thanks to the performance of Barbara Streisand.  If there is a film that captures the slogan of “A Star is Born”, then “Funny Girl” is that film as it introduced the world to the amazing talent of Barbara Streisand.  And the film has never looked as brilliant as it does now on Blu-ray…. Highly recommended!

 






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