“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.