The 1957 film Funny Face is an unparalleled brilliantly art-directed love letter to 1950s fashion culture. Originally a Broadway production in 1927 starring Fred Astaire as the lead, the major motion picture produced three decades later was worlds different from the theatre production and more rooted in aesthetic than plot development. The result is a fashion fairy tale that while made iconic for its caricatures, stunning cinematography and exquisite costumes, lacks slightly in the way of storyline. With the ever-stylish Audrey Hepburn as a lead, Funny Face is the rare sort of film that captivates and is made classic by its passions and great point of reference to its subject.
Astaire also played the lead of Dick Avery in the motion picture, a character based partly on Richard Avedon who also consulted for the film. Avedon’s imprint on the film is vivid, from the opening photo sequence designed by the photographer, to the lively manner in which Astaire cajoles his models on screen, to the striking tone captured in each frame.
The story opens with Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) as a fashion editor drawing from the likes of Diana Vreeland and Carmel Snow. The Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar at the time, Vreeland had no affiliation to the film but the inspiration is apparent. An imaginative, expressive and authoritative leader whose mission was to culture and inform the everyday woman, Prescott’s character is homage to the cultural role played by the fashion editor.
Unforgettably amusing cameos by models like the Think Pink number featuring Chanel muse and ‘50s household name, Suzy Parker. Dovima vamps in the beginning of the film during a comical exchange with Astaire and to witness the fusion of fashion insiders and spoofs of them alike makes Funny Face more authentic in its subtleties.
Audrey Hepburn plays Jo Stockton, an intellectual book lover who has no interest in fashion as demonstrated by her drab smock-like shabby-chic dress and penchant for black turtlenecks. She is discovered while working in a Greenwich Village bookstore by Dick Avery and pursued by Prescott as the next magazine spokesmodel. Seeing the opportunity to model in Paris, Jo has a change of heart and romance and identity crises ensue.
The costumes; stunningly elegant pieces designed by Hubert de Givenchy and Edith Head. A culmination of epic design talent, the sleek elegance of the wardrobe suits the Paris scenes perfectly. Funny Face was the first film Givenchy worked on with Audrey Hepburn. She would serve as a muse to him in the years to come and he would design her iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s ensembles. Audrey Hepburn’s stunning hourglass couture silhouette posing in the Paris streets truly servesny as a confectionary time capsule to a 1950s fashion fairy tale.
(L) Suzy Parker, Sunny Harnett and Dovima. (R) Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire.
(L) Suzy Parker in the "Think Pink" Scene.