Funny Face was Audrey Hepburn’s first musical and it was one of Fred Astaire’s last. A romantic pairing between the 28-year-old Hepburn and the 58-year-old Astaire might seem a little incongruous but it works. In fact everything in this movie works. It’s scrumptious from beginning to end.
Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson), the editor of a fashion magazine called Quality, is looking for a model who can be the Quality Woman - the model that represents what the magazine stands for. She thinks she’s found her in the person of Marion (played by real-life supermodel Dovima) but she’s wrong. Photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) knows that she’s wrong. The Quality Woman has to be not only new and fresh, she has to be intellectual. Maybe if he photographs Marion in a bookstore he can make her seem intellectual. It doesn’t work. But Dick has found the right model - the mousy bookstore clerk Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn). She seems like an unlikely star model but Dick knows that she’ll be perfect.
Of course we know that Dick and Jo will fall in love. This romance gets established quite early on but there will be obstacles to overcome. The plot is wafer-thin but that’s actually an asset - this movie has so much going for it in other areas that too much plot would have been a distraction. When you’re enjoying a luscious dessert you shouldn’t be worried about whether it has any nutritional value. Just concentrate on enjoying it.
The character of Dick Avery was inspired by Richard Avedon, one of the greatest fashion photographers of all time. Avedon acted as a consultant on the picture and was responsible for the wonderful opening title images.
Now to be brutally honest Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn may not have been the greatest singers of all time. It doesn’t matter. Their voices are pleasant and they deliver the songs with a great deal of warmth and charm. The only problem with Hepburn is that early on when she’s supposed to be the ugly duckling she still looks fabulous. But then that doesn’t matter either - after all we have to believe that Dick can see the potential she has to be a great model.
Kay Thompson is superb. Why she made only a handful of films is a mystery.
Paramount’s Region 4 DVD offers an anamorphic transfer which looks pretty good.
Funny Face is magnificent entertainment. It’s light and frothy and it has style, style and more style. Highly recommended.