For our last FCP film club this year, we were treated to FUNNY FACE. A 1957 film starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Alstaire set in the glamorous, glossy world of mid-century high fashion that served as the film’s backdrop. The plot mainly centered on a shop assistant who became a fashion model after an impromptu fashion shoot at a bookstore. The character Dick Avery was based on one of the most prolific photographers in the industry, Richard Avedon. During the FCP trip to London last March 15th, we actually went to the Avedon/Warhol exhibition that was on and his talent amazed me. I’ll discuss more about him below.
Meanwhile, magazine editor Maggie Prescott was based on legendary fashion head Diana Vreeland who apparently wasn’t too pleased. (This fact reminds me of The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly and Anna Wintour).
The film was shot in Paris, the centre of fashion at the time and one of my favourite cities. It was the perfect location for a film like this! FUNNY FACE featured the always impeccable and elegant Audrey Hepburn in one of her stylish, iconic performances. I personally enjoyed the high fashion moments, and the very dramatized version of this industry, but I wasn’t sold on the romance and musical aspect as much. All in all, it was a light, fun, enjoyable film about fashion and love.
Even if I haven’t seen this movie before, I knew that Audrey Hepburn’s character was styled and designed by Paramount’s famous costumer Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy. Audrey became a sort of muse for Givenchy and I have to say, the 50s and 60s Audrey style will forever be sophisticated and chic. Givenchy would, of course, go on to design costumes for her for several other movies, most notably, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ I was thoroughly impressed by the collection of custom-designed dresses by Givenchy and thought they were classic.
“His are the only clothes in which I am myself.” – Hepburn on Givenchy, having requested that he will design all her future costumes, starting with Funny Face.
Dick Avery’s character was also based on legendary fashion photographer, Richard Avedon. His life not only provided the basis for FUNNY FACE, but his work also appeared in the film, most notably in its opening titles. He designed all the backgrounds used in the sequence, “laying out each shot like a fashion magazine spread – a homage to his own fashion photography and the work of Alexey Brodovitch, the former art director of Harper’s Bazaar. I loved the opening credits and have to say it’s one of my main highlights from this film. It was so aesthetically pleasing! Avedon also served as Special Visual Consultant on the film, and provided much of the photography used in the movie.
“Avedon himself was hired as the movie’s visual consultant, and his photographs are seen in the opening segment and throughout the sequences set in Paris. One of those photos is a famous shot of Hepburn, an extreme close-up in which only her eyes, nose, and mouth are visible.”
Similar to the fashion editor in FUNNY FACE, Vreeland favoured quirky looks and “personality” in her models.” Vreeland was the fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar. But she was not impressed with the movie, reported saying “Never to be discussed” at an assistant as she exited the screening.
Anyway, did you know that FUNNY FACE did not earn back its budget at the box office? The film played well in big cities but not in small towns, where there “seemed to be less interest in the movie’s depiction of the fashion worlds of New York and Paris.”
On a good note, the film earned Oscar nomimations for Best Costume Design, Cinematography, Art Direction and Screenplay.