Debunking Hollywood’s ‘Funny Girl’: The real story of Fanny Brice

Fanny Brice, the real 'Funny Girl'
Fanny Brice, the real ‘Funny Girl’

“Being a funny person does an awful lot of things to you. You feel that you mustn’t get serious with people. They don’t expect it from you, and they don’t want to see it. You’re not entitled to be serious, you’re a clown, and they only want you to make them laugh.” — Fanny Brice

Hollywood filmmaking is an industry that subordinates truth to glamour. Director William Wyler’s 1968 success, Funny Girl, is a typical studio film in this respect. Although Barbra Streisand’s dazzling talent, Omar Sharif’s dashing good looks, and Isobel Lennart’s charming screenplay combine to make an entertaining story, Funny Girl hardly tells the complete tale of Fanny Brice. An equally riveting, factual account of this Jewish comedian’s life can be found in Herbert G. Goldman’s biography “Fanny Brice: The Original Funny Girl”. This paper examines the distinctions between Barbara Streisand’s Fanny Brice and the real Fanny Brice. In doing so, the freedoms and limitations of these two mediums, ‘loosely-biographical’ film and non-fiction writing, are made apparent.

Within the first few scenes of Wyler’s Funny Girl the audience is introduced to Fanny Brice’s low-income home on Henry Street. Fanny’s financial and social obstacles to fame instantly endear viewers to her character. Spectators sympathize with Fanny’s frustration and admire her determination to fulfill her goals, especially in light of her need to continually defend her dreams to her less ambitious, card addict mother and neighbors.

Read moreDebunking Hollywood’s ‘Funny Girl’: The real story of Fanny Brice

The Moves of Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly in 'An American in Paris'
Gene Kelly in ‘An American in Paris’

Gene Kelly redefined the American film musical by creating male protagonists who epitomized masculinity while singing and dancing. Unlike his peer Fred Astaire, Kelly was disinterested in portraying upper-class, effeminate men and actually said that he “didn’t want to move or act like a rich man, [he] wanted to dance in a pair of jeans, [he] wanted to dance like the man in the streets” (PBS Special).

Kelly’s unique talent for making the most complex dance sequences appear effortless and commonplace is apparent in Vincente Minnelli’s 1951 musical hit, An American in Paris. Moreover, Kelly’s skill, ideas, and artistic judgement were crucial to the successful planning and production of this film.

Read moreThe Moves of Gene Kelly

Overlooking the Self: ‘The Shining’ as an allegory of American Imperialism

Shelley Duvall (left), Danny Lloyd and Jack Nicholson head to the Overlook Hotel in 'The Shining'
Shelley Duvall (left), Danny Lloyd and Jack Nicholson head to the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’

In The Shining, writer-director Stanley Kubrick presents the chilling tale of Jack Torrance, a middle-aged, all-American family man who slowly loses his mind to forces of the supernatural. When he accepts the position of caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, a massive, swank institution ornately decorated and expensively furnished, Jack opens himself up to the physical manifestation of his alter ego, a ghostly force destined to hack up his wife and son with an ax.

Throughout the film, we learn three pieces of information central to the film’s thematic progression. First, that the Overlook has quite a sordid past and remnants of the past still linger in the hallways and guest rooms of the hotel. Next, that Jack’s young son, Danny, has a form of extrasensory perception, not to mention an alter ego of his own. And, most central to the story, we discover that when given the chance, forces of evil will drive humankind to commit inhumane acts.

Read moreOverlooking the Self: ‘The Shining’ as an allegory of American Imperialism

Murder Me Mallory: ‘Natural Born Killers’ and the Media

In a landscape of television media riddled with fancy computer-generated American flag logos, snappy catchphrases like “America Under Siege” and glittery advertisements encouraging us to preserve the spirit of liberty by buying a Ford, it seems needless to argue the notion that television shapes not merely our reception of news and information, but our perception of it as well. In the wake of September 11th, nightly news reports focus almost exclusively on the worldwide manhunt for terrorists, yet there continues to be little new information on this front. News programs have evolved from hour-a-week broadcasts to day-long spectacles for celebrity newscasters to interview one more family of a fallen firefighter.

Read moreMurder Me Mallory: ‘Natural Born Killers’ and the Media

The Color of Special Effects & ‘Aliens’

Sulaco in 'Aliens'
Sulaco in ‘Aliens’

The majority of filmgoers are familiar with the use of blue- or green screens in filming effect shots in big budget films such as Star Wars or the Matrix. But with the advent of digital compositing in post production, a wide variety of colored screens can be used depending on the color of the foreground objects that are shot in front of it. So there are blue screens, green screens, black screens and even red screens in some cases.

The most famous of these is the blue screen. Here we will explore the process involved in replacing those “blue” with an image.

Read moreThe Color of Special Effects & ‘Aliens’

Are DVDs Really Worth It

Looking back, VHS was rubbish wasn’t it? How did we endure all that tracking, endlessly turning the dials in a futile attempt to remove that unsightly snow from the top and bottom of our picture? And what good is a VHS copy of Basic Instinct if the screen shakes like an epileptic whenever you press pause? Even worse, while we paid good money to forever own VHS copies of our favourite films, the quality would inevitably deteriorate, and after a few short years a team of experts was required to determine exactly what the battered black rectangle previously contained.

Read moreAre DVDs Really Worth It