Original Soundtrack

Funny Face [Hallmark]

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The British Hallmark label takes advantage of the 50-year limit on copyright for recordings in Europe by releasing this unlicensed reissue of the soundtrack to the 1957 film Funny Face. By the mid-'50s, Hollywood's manhandling of Broadway musicals had become less common, as songwriter/producers like Rodgers & Hammerstein saw to it that the screen adaptations of their shows were more faithful to the stage productions, especially with regard to their music. So, it should be noted that Funny Face, with music credited to George & Ira Gershwin and a starring role for Fred Astaire, all principal figures in the 1927 Broadway musical of the same name, is very much a throwback to Hollywood's old way of doing things; it bears very little relationship to the show. The real moving force behind the picture was its producer, Roger Edens. Edens, a veteran of the MGM studio (though here working at Paramount), was a long-time contriver of "special material" and no respecter of the words or music of other songwriters. In this case, he found a story called Wedding Day, based on an unproduced musical by Leonard Gershe, and decided to graft at least some of the Gershwin songs from Funny Face to it. The story, set in the ‘50s, concerns a fashion photographer based on Richard Avedon (Astaire), a fashion magazine editor based on Carmel Snow of Harpers Bizarre (MGM song coach and nightclub entertainer Kay Thompson, making a rare onscreen appearance), and a bohemian bookstore-employee-turned-fashion-model (Audrey Hepburn) who set off to Paris for a photo shoot. Plenty of Paris fashions, plenty of Astaire dancing, and some shallow lampooning of French philosophy (with Existentialism turned into Emphaticalism, and Jean-Paul Sartre into the libidinous Professor Flostre) ensue. Along the way, Edens wrote some of his own mediocre music ("Think Pink," "Bonjour, Paris!") and, more objectionably, rewrote many of Ira Gershwin's lyrics and even some of George Gershwin's music (not all of which was actually from the Funny Face stage show anyway). The result did not make Gershwin fans happy. The attributes of the soundtrack album come from Astaire, who is typically effective, and Thompson, who would have been a much more appropriate romantic partner for him. Hepburn, 30 years Astaire's junior, but nevertheless matched to him at the end, can carry a tune, but just. The Hallmark reissue, a direct copy of the original Verve Records LP, is a bare-bones affair with nothing more than song titles for annotations, but it sells for a budget price in Europe, which is the only territory where it is sold legally.

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