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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall ...

Funny Girl

Plot Overview

“Funny Girl” opens in medias res following a leopard skin attired babe Fanny Brice (Barbara Streisand) into Ziegfeld Follies where she greets her­self in the mirror (“Hello, gorgeous”) and seats her­self with a ghost audience to ponder her success while awaiting a call from the owner Florenz Ziegfeld (Walter Pidgeon.) As she sits we're trans­ported back in time to a Lower East Side apartment where Fanny seated with her mother Rose Brice (Kay Medford), neighbor Mrs. Strakosh (Mae Questel), a very married Sadie, and other biddies, is cautioned not to get her hopes up auditioning for the stage as she may not be well enough endowed (“her incidentals are the size of lentils.”) She some­how stumbles into a chorus line part, but she doesn't fit in with the other girls, so the manager Mr. Keeney (Frank Faylen) summarily fires her (“I'm sorry kiddo.”) She protests saying, “I'm a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls” and by sheer dint of per­se­ver­ance and a healthy dose of moxie, she upgrades her­self (“You're no chorus girl. You're a singer and a comic.”) She gets noticed and comes to the attention of Mr. Ziegfeld who tries her out, but she won't do what he says, at least not with­out some mad ad libbing, so he doesn't know what to do with her (“I ought to fire you, but I love talent.”) Her star is rising.

One of her fans a professional gambler Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif) starts heaping attention on her. He's lonesome in his loner life­style while she though surrounded by friends doesn't have that one special some­one, so they figure on getting hitched when he can afford to, “when I make a bank­roll.” Unfortu­nately, according to the true proverb, (Prov. 13:11) “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase,” his lucky streak comes to an end while her hard work pays off, so hers is the only productive income. Nick through humiliation and desperation takes part in a phony bond deal that lands him in the hoose­gow. While he's cooling his heels for a couple years (minus six months for good behavior), he wants them to think about a divorce as they aren't good for each other any more, and she returns to the stage to await a word with Mr. Ziegfeld.


“Funny Girl's” gambler got me thinking of the life applications Kenny Rogers sang about in “The Gambler.” The refrain to the song goes:

You've got to know when to hold 'em,
Know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run.

This wisdom of the gambling man's repartee is old as the hills and was passed on by a raconteur in the Proverbs, as I developed in my review of “Red River.” Here in “Funny Girl” we see Nick knowing when to hold 'em when his opponent thinks he's bluffing. He knows when to fold in a small stakes game with Fanny's people even though he's got good cards. He knows when to walk away from a game when he's down on his luck. And Fanny some­thing of a gambler her­self knows when to run to catch the boat. The gambler in the song gave the advice:

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

As long as we're applying the words to life, that could apply to waiting for the after­life to see any final accounting, as Fr. Zacharias has written, “We acknow­ledge God as the giver of all things; any depri­vation we suffer in this life will be made good in eternity, for God is our rewarder” (249). Here Rose speaks of her ex as, “gorgeous. Wher­ever he is … he should only stay there,” there being a final accounting in the sweet by and by. In this story Nick negotiated to get Fanny started at $50 a week rather than the $25 the manager wanted to give her. Whether the husband's influence entitled him to 50% of her earnings is probably best left to God to decide, so Nick should be allowed the benefit of the doubt rather than the accusation of using Fanny as a “meal ticket.” This movie like others treats with male-female relations, but their ultimate fairness is beyond our earthly ken.

Nick and Fanny's first (impromptu) date saw them leave the apartment party for some alone time in the alley out back, but a neighbor at her window over­looking it was within ear­shot should the girl get in trouble. As they begin their court­ship ritual, we see a some­what awkward good­bye kiss, as has been written of by anthro­pologist Desmond Morris (well known for his book The Naked Ape): (247)

There are changes in the sequence, resulting from set social conventions. The good­night-kiss ritual can bring this form of intimacy forward in the sequence con­siderably, just as accepting an invitation to dance can bring forward a waist embrace to an early stage in court­ship.

The private dining room for their next date included a couch, but there was a waiter on call, again a safety feature. Fanny explicitly told Nick she had other plans when he invited her, but he reserved the room for them any­way. Here "no" did not mean no but was a playing-hard-to-get–ploy, as Fanny told her friend, “I didn't say too much, I didn't say too little, I said just what I said and then walked.” This is consistent with language science as written by Henry L. Roediger: (300)

Language communicates meaning, but meaning is not in words and sentences. Meaning is constructed in the mind. Declarations, questions, orders, and threats have meaning for both speaker and listener because each understands the words and social context. … ¶People do not comprehend language in a vacuum … Language comprehension requires generating, inferring, and consolidating meaning from speech or writing, guided by knowledge of the world and the context of language.

Practitioners of S&M sometimes agree before­hand on a "safety word" used to signal the other party to stop, and indeed Nick and Fanny have the opposite in the word Sadie that will signal a marriage proposal, but "no" is by no means a universal safety word, and those who spout the slogan, "No means no" are ignorant of communi­cation science and of this movie. Fanny has a strong voice that she can use if she's in trouble to summon the neighbor, the waiter, or later the steward, but we should give a gentle­man the benefit of any doubt.

In an outrageously comedic routine, Fanny represents the wife whom a man marries in competition with a passel of beauties, who wins by getting her­self “in the family way.” Back in the day a man as often as not felt obligated to marry the girl he knocked up. Since Roe v. Wade (1973), men are less inclined to, figuring the woman has other options. Still, too much physical intimacy before marriage can lead to a less than ideal selection of a mate, as Morris writes: (247)

The [sexual] preliminaries provide time for careful judgments to be made, judgments that may be hard to form once the massive, shared emotional impact of double orgasm has been experienced. This powerful moment can act as such a tight ‘bonder’ that it may well tie together two people quite unsuited to each other, if they have not spent sufficient time exploring each other's personalities during the sexual preliminaries.

Nick and Fanny spent their courtship time getting to know each other, to the extent the movie's time­frame allowed, and still their marriage was troubled.

Production Values

“Funny Girl” (1968) was directed by William Wyler. The screenplay was by Isobel Lennart based on her book and original story, Funny Girl, that also enjoyed a run on Broadway. It stars Barbara Streisand and Omar Sharif, both of whom were magnificent. It was a stylized depiction of the life of comedienne Fanny Brice. It was stuffed to the gills with show tunes. It's a little long at 151 minutes, but there is an intermission. MPAA rates it G.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I saw “Funny Girl” as a classic rerun in my local theater. It's a great musical, a little shallow as a biography, and stuck some­what with New York style humor. My eyes were assaulted by the rich techni­color and my ears with the strong voice of Streisand, but there's nothing wrong with the movie, and it should turn out okay on a more modest setup. If this is the kind of fare you like, treat yourself to a show.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes Suitability for children: Suitable for children, general audiences. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Special effects: Dazzling effects. Suspense: Predictable. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Morris, Desmond. Manwatching. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1977. Print.

Roediger III, Henry L. et al, Psychology. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1987.

Rogers, Kenny. Songwriter Don Schlitz. “The Gambler.” Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Pub. LLC. WEB.

Zacharias, Archimandrite. Remember Thy First Love (Rev. 2:4-5) The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life In the Theology of Elder Sophrony. Dalton, PA: Mount Thabor Pub., 2010. Print.