Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Funny Girl (1968)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Funny Girl (1968)

In director William Wyler's highly-fictionalized musical biography about the famed, early 20th century Ziegfeld Follies revue performer Fanny Brice - she was both a comedienne and film star; the tale was mostly told in flashback; it was Wyler's first musical film - a Columbia Pictures adaptation of the Jule Style-Isobel Lennart-Bob Merrill stage musical that starred singer Barbra Streisand (reprising her 1964 Broadway role); the sequel Funny Lady (1975) provided more about Fanny Brice's life and also starred Barbra Streisand:

  • in the film's opening, film star/comedian Fanny Brice (Best Actress-winning Barbra Streisand in her debut screen performance) entered as a figure (shown only from behind) in a leopard-skin-patterned, plush fur outfit (with matching hat) who walked up to the street-side marquee of the New Amsterdam Theatre, where theatrical producer Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (Walter Pidgeon) and his "Ziegfeld Follies" show was being featured - starring herself; after a moment of reflection upon herself, she proceeded to the backstage entrance and delivered her famous line as she turned and looked into a dressing room mirror: "Hello, gorgeous"; a tear welled up in her left eye, hinting at her mood of melancholia
The Introduction of Fanny Brice: "Hello Gorgeous"
  • she then proceeded to an entryway onto the large stage, and looked out into an empty auditorium. She played a few notes on a piano (the opening to "People"), then hit a chaotic grouping of keys to create a dissonant sound; standing at center stage, she remembered applause and then pretended that she was shooting, with sound effects, at an invisible audience (in the orchestra and balcony areas) with an imaginary machine gun. Then, she sat down in one of the red velvet seats in the third row
  • Fanny's black maid Emma (Mittie Lawrence) walked onto the stage and called out, "Miss Fanny?" Fanny responded: "Down here, Emma, third row." Emma had come in early to tidy up and was told by the company/stage manager (John Harmon) that Fanny was there; Fanny explained why she was seated in the audience: "The one place in the theatre I've never sat. Maybe things look different from here"
  • Fanny revealed that she was "nervous, happy, scared, excited" about meeting up with her husband who was expected to arrive sometime that evening; Fanny was impressed when Emma told her that the show's producer Flo Ziegfeld was patiently waiting for her in his office: "Mr. Ziegfeld wants to see you. When you feel like it, he says. He'll be waiting in his office"; this line cued the film's major flashback to Fanny's youth and humble beginnings, beginning at her mother's Brice's Saloon
  • in the film's first flashback, the aspiring and gifted rags-to-riches performer Fanny Brice was initially introduced as an unglamorous, gawky and uncoordinated Jewish girl from the Lower East Side of NY, putting her at a disadvantage with her competition; her mother's friend Mrs. Strakosh (Mae Questel) attempted to dissuade Fanny from her high aspirations, but she was determined to convince others that she was going to be the next big star even though she wasn't one of the "beautiful girls": "The whole world will look at me and be stunned"
  • at the Oriental Palace during a dance audition, Fanny ("You, with the skinny legs...with the bloomers") was shown the door by director Keeney (Frank Faylen) after an embarrassing, unsynchronized chorus routine; she responded "You're making a mistake," and tried to argue that she was unique: ("I'm a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls! Nobody recognizes me"); she sang: "I'm the Greatest Star": ("...Well, I'm miffed. 'Cause I'm the greatest star. I am by far, but no one knows it. Wait - they're gonna hear a voice, a silver flute. They'll cheer each toot....when I expose it...Some ain't got it, not a lump. I'm a great big clump of talent!...When you're gifted, then you're gifted. These are facts, I've got no axe to grind! Ay! What are ya, blind? In all of the world so far, I'm the greatest star! (No autographs, please....You think beautiful girls are gonna stay in style forever? I should say not! Any minute now, they're gonna be out! Finished! Then it'll be my turn!)")
  • however, she was still dismissed, although she returned to the empty stage to finish her song; she admitted with Keeney's assistant Eddie Ryan (Lee Allen) that she had mistakenly tried out for a mismatching chorus role, and was more "a singer and a comic"
  • she was offered a second chance at show-business in vaudeville - if she could roller-skate - in the show's novelty act; in her debut performance at Keeney's Music Hall, Fanny had acquired a part in a roller-skating stage number known as "Roller Skate Rag" after falsely claiming that she could skate; she humorously and clumsily participated in (and sabotaged) the stage number with other skating chorus girls; however, her act was interpreted as deliberate, comedic and hilarious; afterwards, she solo-performed and took center-stage for the song: "I'd Rather Be Blue Over You (Than Happy With Somebody Else)"
  • backstage in the dressing room after the show, although she anticipated meeting Flo Ziegfeld, a knock on the door brought charismatic and seductive ladies' man suitor (and entrepreneurish gambler) Nicky Arnstein (Omar Sharif) with custom-made clothes (including a Ruffled Shirt - a future nickname); he complimented her: "You're going to be a big star...I'll look for it in lights"; she declined his invite to dinner at Delmonico's, but he charmed her by kissing her hand as he departed
  • six months later, a momentous turning point came when a telegram arrived for Fanny from Flo Ziegfeld, requesting a meeting with her at the New Amsterdam Theatre; she assumed Arnstein had put in a good word for her, but worried: "It's coming too easy. That's what's got me scared...This is too quick. I haven't suffered enough yet"; she sang: "Second Hand Rose" for her audition song with Ziegfeld watching in the audience, and was promptly hired as a Ziegfeld Girl to sing two songs; however, she vehemently challenged the impresario by objecting to singing the second song, "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" in the finale, because she didn't regard herself as "beautiful," but she had to accept Ziegfeld's orders or be rejected entirely
  • at Fanny's opening night performance in Ziegfeld's "Follies" at the New Amsterdam, the dramatic, lavish wedding-song finale "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" was marvelously staged with a staircase of beautiful, scantily-clad, bejewelled Ziegfeld Girls; Fanny unexpectedly transformed the scene of idealized beauty into a brilliant comedic performance by appearing on-stage as a pregnant bride ("in the family way") with a pillow stuffed under her wedding gown
  • the audience broke out into unexpected laugher, and initially there were stunned reactions to her subversion of the romantic lyrics by the outraged Ziegfeld himself, but ultimately he accepted her decision when she explained why she had abruptly changed the mood of the song with a comic twist: ("They laughed with me, not at me. Because I wanted them to laugh"); to her surprise, he congratulated her and the cast: ("It went beautifully") rather than firing her: ("I ought to fire you. But I love talent. And it's hard to quarrel with five curtain calls...So I guess I'll have to give you another chance"); he even ordered her to replicate the opening night's performance: ("You'll do it exactly as you did tonight and that's an order!") with the pillow; he even offered her a third number and new song; Fanny's intuition would prove to bring her lasting attention and fame
  • the handsome Nick also appeared again at Fanny's dressing room door, and offered her praises with a dozen yellow roses and a card: "Dear Star, I told you so"; he accompanied her to the opening night's block party hosted by her mother at Brice's Saloon on Henry Street in her neighborhood, where Fanny's triumph was celebrated with the drinking of free beer; Fanny's mother Rose (Kay Medford) was skeptical of Arnstein who quickly joined in a game of poker; when Fanny asserted: "He's a gentleman. A gentleman fits in anyplace," she disagreed: "A sponge fits in anyplace"
  • they briefly left the party in the noisy saloon and retreated to the alleyway to be alone where he jokingly mentioned his many conquests to her: ("Oh, thousands...all gorgeous...That way, I don't get too involved. I like to feel free"); she reacted: "You can get lonesome being that free," and he answered back about her busy life: "You can get lonesome being that busy"; Fanny quipped that they both had "the same problem" - loneliness
  • Fanny performed the chart-topping, mega-smash hit song "People" (Streisand's signature song) - a song of emotional longing: ("People who need people are the luckiest people in the world"); after the song, he flattered her with more flowery compliments: ("Fanny, you're an enchanting girl. I wish I could get to know you better"), but then told her about his horse-breeding business in Kentucky that was calling him away, and made an "indecent proposal" for her to join him; she walked with him to his car where he kissed her, after telling her that he had no idea when he would return: "I never have definite plans. They make me feel too tied down. But I'll call you. Goodbye"
  • within the next year during the Follies' tour (via train), Fanny had become the show's biggest star; the tour's next stop for a week was in Baltimore, where Nick was awaiting her arrival at the station - he hadn't seen her for 12 months and two weeks; she was impressed that he invited her to dinner: ("You always ask me out, don't you? Whenever you happen to run into me. I've never known anyone so polite"), but declined his offer; he persisted by offering her a private dinner at her hotel, the Majestic, where he would be waiting for her arrival at 8 pm, but she remained steadfast in her refusal: "There's no law against waiting. People do it all the time"; later in the day, she complimented herself: "For once in my life, just once, I didn't say too much, I didn't say too little. I said just enough, then I walked" - but then she attended anyway
A Private Dinner with Arnstein In Her Majestic Hotel in Baltimore
  • during a romantic private dinner in the Baltimore hotel, she was wary: "You planning to make advances?", and he coyly replied: "I wasn't planning it, but it does seem possible"; she asked: "Before dinner or after dinner?"; he gave her another valuable gift - a blue marble egg; he sensed that she was "angry" at him - for not having called after his trip a year earlier to Kentucky, and he explained: "I wanted to stay away from you. We were heading for something you couldn't possibly have known how to handle," but now, he felt that times were different: "It's time you learned"; after ordering dinner in French (translated into roast beef and potatoes), he vowed he would be more direct in making advances toward her and then sang: "You Are Woman, I Am Man"; the lights were lowered and they passionately kissed as they reclined back on a red chaise-lounger
  • after Fanny's brief one-week reunion with Nicky in Baltimore during her tour, he decided to cut short their time together when his racehorse Elsie lost the Baltimore Handicap at the racetrack and he was now about broke: ("I lost Elsie and my shirt"); his new departure plan was to take the midnight train to New York and then board the H.M.S. Berengaria for Europe the following night; his goal during the 8-day voyage across the Atlantic was to gamble (play cards) and win back his lost money ("That's how I live"); Fanny was upset, unhappy, and saddened: "So we wave to each other from boats and trains. You walk back into my life, change everything and walk right out again"; she was reassured when he vowed that now things were different: "I love you"
  • Nicky sent another bouquet of yellow roses to Fanny (with an "I LOVE YOU" note), who was awaiting her train to Chicago for the next stop in the tour; to not lose her one chance at happiness and a "personal life" apart from the stage, she impulsively decided to quit the Follies, and couldn't be persuaded to change her mind; she spoke on the phone with Ziegfeld who was incensed by her "idiotic" plan: "That's the most unprofessional thing I've ever heard in my entire life!"; she urged him to calm down: "Will you simmer down before your ulcer starts flaring up" - and he quipped back: "That's funny coming from you, since you gave me that ulcer"
Fanny Phoning Ziegfeld and Quitting the Follies, to Pursue a "Personal Life" with Nicky
  • Fanny bought a train ticket on the Empire Limited to New York to join Nick, although her Follies' co-workers thought she was foolish ("Don't stick your neck out this way!") when she vowed: "I love the guy and I want to be with him"; at the beginning of a longer sequence, she began to sing: "Don't Rain on My Parade"; during a remarkably staged and vocal rendition of the number, Fanny took the train to New York City and then arrived at the harbor via taxi, but Nick's ship had already departed from the dock; she commissioned a NY Central # 24 tugboat to take her to the ship; as the song concluded, Fanny stood on the bow of the tugboat in New York City's harbor near the Statue of Liberty (seen in an extreme zoom close-up shot from a helicopter)
On the Train to NYC, and in NYC Harbor
"Don't Rain on My Parade"
  • after an intermission (with a musical interlude), Fanny surprised Nick in his ship cabin - he called her a "crazy girl" for following after him but was overjoyed to see her; she assured him: "I promise I'll never tie you down"; later in the ballroom during drinks, she noted their differences: "You're Park Avenue. I'm Lower East Side" and then nervously hinted at marriage: "Where I come from on Henry Street, when two people sort of love each of them says, 'Why don't we get married?'"; he suggested that they could get married only after he became rich again and could be the head of the family: ("When I make a bankroll...It'll be the way I say or not at all"); she urged him to play poker and win what was needed
  • during a late-night all-mens' poker game, Fanny (who couldn't keep a straight face) anxiously sat and watched Nick, who experienced a winning streak and made a fortune in cash; the scene dissolved into a close-up view of a large diamond ring on Fanny's finger; she had become "Sadie" (Nick's nickname for her, signifying that she was a married lady) - and sang the number: "Sadie, Sadie"
  • they moved into a huge, luxurious Long Island mansion in the country after millionaire Nick won the Epsom Derby; he also told her of plans for a new business venture in Florida; she bore a child for him - a daughter named Frances - born 9 months after their first night on the ship bound for Europe; Fanny was also rehired by the Ziegfeld Follies and was busily rehearsing in New Jersey for a new show, while Nick was often away from home - most recently in Oklahoma during a failed search for oil - and Fanny reacted to his major financial losses: "This time I think you lost your ruffled shirt"; they had to resort to selling their home and moving into an apartment in the city, closer to Fanny's rehearsal location
  • on Fanny's opening night of the new show, a balletic, comical version of Swan Lake (including Fanny's ascent on wires into the air), Nick (who had earlier claimed he had lost his "poker face") was in the backroom of a gambling casino run by his friend Tom Branca (Gerald Mohr); he remained late into the night to recoup his losses after a streak of bad luck in a poker game, and was a no-show for Fanny's premiere; the planned opening night party was cancelled, although there were glowing reviews for her performance; he finally showed up in their new NYC apartment home the next morning where she was awaiting his tardy arrival, disgruntled and upset over how he had spoiled her opening night; she was also concerned about his gambling addiction and his continual uncaring and irresponsible behavior
  • Fanny's mother Rose advised her daughter to start looking at the harsh reality of Nick's financial situation, but more importantly, she counseled Fanny to see more clearly and help Nick: "It's you I'm surprised at....Because when you look at him, you only see what you want to see...Fanny, love him a little less. Help him a little more...The man is drowning. He owes money everywhere. He doesn't know which way to turn...Everybody knows, only you don't know...You've gotta sit down with him, talk to him, think together what he should do"
  • to redeem and extract himself from his dire financial circumstances, the desperate Nick was tempted by another lucrative business venture from Peterson - to engage in a shady bonds scam, but he refused
  • shortly later in his NY apartment, Nick (with Fanny listening in) entertained another business proposition from his friend Tom Branca, to partner in the development of a second gambling casino on the East Side, but to Nick's surprise, he wasn't required to pay the "full partnership" investment of $50,000; Nick suddenly realized that Fanny had already secretly helped, after seeing how unhappy he was, by putting up her own money for the necessary capital; Nick became very uncomfortable about how he was becoming more and more dependent on her, and he rejected the deal: ("I don't want that kind of help. I don't want anyone going around behind my back, sinking money into me to make me look good")
  • instead, Nick turned to the shady bonds deal that he had previously rejected by calling up Peterson; in the immediate next scene, Fanny was at the end of a stage performance in her dressing room, when she was informed by Tom about Nick: "He's gotten himself mixed up in a phony bond deal" - who was charged with embezzlement; Ziegfeld added that Tom had already acquired the best criminal attorney in NYC, Bill Fallon; Nick had surrendered to police and was arrested and jailed; according to them, he was too "humiliated, ashamed" to see Fanny; as she left the stage area, she answered reporters questions with light, humorous answers
  • in the court case, The People v. Arnstein, Nick rejected his lawyer's strategy to postpone the trial and pled guilty to the charges by the DA; he was given a minimum sentence of two years, although he could be released in 18 months; he briefly spoke to Fanny and bluntly stated: "I want you to divorce me....We're just no good for each other, that's all. Everybody knows that....There's no way I can catch up with you. I don't want to run anymore. Not in a race I can't win. Let me go, Fanny. Let me be myself again"
  • before Nick was detained permanently, Fanny was able to have him agree to a final decision about a divorce only after he had served his time: ("Why don't we just leave it for now, and if you still feel the same way when you come home, I won't fight you. Okay?"); he kissed her and left her (his "funny girl") with words of encouragement: "Go out, see people, do things, enjoy yourself. I don't worry about you. The moment you're out there on that stage, nothing bothers you....The strongest woman in the whole world, that's what you are. Did you know that?"
The Film's Title Song: "Funny Girl"
  • after their tearful goodbye, Fanny sang "Funny Girl" - referencing Nick's moniker for her: ("Funny. Did you hear that? Funny. Yeah, the guy said, 'Honey. You're a funny girl.' That's me, I just keep them in stitches. Doubled in half. And though I may be all wrong for the guy, I'm good for a laugh...")
  • in the film's conclusion - an end to the flashback and a return to the opening scene, Fanny was still reminiscing about everything in the third row of the theatre; she then entered her backstage dressing room to briefly speak to Flo Ziegfeld, with only about 15 minutes until showtime; he was worried about her fate in the theatre; she was still uncertain about what decision she would make after the arrival of her husband Nicky Arnstein, who had just been released from prison after serving his 18-month term for embezzlement
  • once Nick arrived, during their bittersweet reunion in her dressing room (like so many other times before), they realized that even though they loved each other, they also knew that they were only bringing each other unhappiness; Fanny admitted that Nick was "right" in asking for a divorce; the couple decided to part ways with the film's final lines: Nick: "Goodbye, Fanny" (long pause) Fanny: "Bye, Nick"
  • the film ended with Fanny's compelling signature song "My Man" - sung on-stage before a black backdrop in the film's finale: ("Oh my man, I love him so, he'll never know. All my life is just despair but I don't care. When he takes me in his arms, the world is bright, alright. What's the difference if I say I'll go away when I know I'll come back on my knees someday? For whatever my man is, I am his forever more!")

Film's Opening: Approaching the Backstage Door of the New Amsterdam Theatre in NYC

Fanny Seated in the Theatre's Third Row

Fanny's Song After Her Failed Audition - "I'm the Greatest Star" To Convince Others of Her Potential Stardum

After Being Ushered Out: "Ay! What are ya, blind?"

Roller-Skating Sequence and Fanny's Solo Performance of "I'd Rather Be Blue Over You"

After the Show, Charismatic Suitor Nicky Arnstein (Omar Sharif) at Fanny's Dressing Room Door

Auditioning "Second Hand Rose" For Ziegfeld (Walter Pidgeon) and His "Follies" at the New Amsterdam Theatre

Fanny in the Show's Wedding Number Finale ("His Love Makes Me Beautiful"), Pretending to be Pregnant

Fanny with Seductive Suitor Nick After "Follies" Show

Fanny Brice Flattered by Nick in Brice Saloon's Back Alleyway Before Singing "People"


Nick's Kiss For Fanny Before Departing

Fanny Being Romanced During a Private Baltimore Hotel Dinner and Song: "You are Woman, I am Man"

Nicky to Fanny: "I love you"

Fanny's Greeting from Nick Onboard a Ship Bound for Europe

All-Night Mens' Poker Game

Diamond Ring on Fanny's Finger - Married! ("Sadie, Sadie")

With a New Baby Girl

Fanny's Mother Rose's Advice to Fanny About Her Failing Marriage to Arnstein ("Love him a little less. Help him a little more"

Nick in Court with Lawyer, Pleading Guilty to Embezzlement

Before Sentencing, Nick's Request for a Divorce From Fanny

Postponing the Divorce Decision Until After Nick Served His Time

End of Flashback: Nick's Arrival in Fanny's Dressing Room Before Their Decision to Part

Final Spotlighted Solo Song: "My Man"


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