Funny Lady

Funny Lady is a 1975 American biographical musical comedy-drama film directed by Herbert Ross and starring Barbra Streisand, James Caan, Omar Sharif, Roddy McDowall and Ben Vereen.

Funny Lady
Theatrical poster
Directed byHerbert Ross
Produced byRay Stark
Written byJay Presson Allen
Arnold Schulman
StarringBarbra Streisand
James Caan
Roddy McDowall
Ben Vereen
Carole Wells
Omar Sharif
Music byFred Ebb
John Kander
Peter Matz
CinematographyJames Wong Howe
Edited byMarion Rothman
Maury Winetrobe
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • March 15, 1975 (1975-03-15)
Running time
136 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$8.5 million[1]
Box office$40.1 million[2]

A sequel to the 1968 film Funny Girl, it is a highly fictionalized account of the later life and career of comedian Fanny Brice and her marriage to songwriter and impresario Billy Rose. The screenplay was by Jay Presson Allen and Arnold Schulman, based on a story by Schulman. The primary score was by John Kander and Fred Ebb.




Although she was contractually bound to make one more film for producer Ray Stark (Fanny Brice's one-time son-in-law), Streisand balked at doing the project. She told Stark "that it would take litigation to make her do a sequel." However, Streisand liked the script, which showed Fanny to be "...tougher, more acerbic, more mature...", and she agreed to do the film.[4][5]

The first actor to read for the role of Billy Rose was Robert Blake. Other actors were mentioned, including Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, but ultimately James Caan was chosen. Streisand explained: "It comes down to whom the audience wants me to kiss. Robert Blake, no. James Caan, yes."[5]

Stark, unhappy with the scenes shot by the original cinematographer, lured an ailing James Wong Howe out of retirement to complete the film. It proved to be his final project, and it earned him an Academy Award nomination.[6]

Studio heads forced Ross to trim the film to a manageable 136 minutes before its release. Much of Vereen's performance ended up on the cutting room floor, together with a recreation of Brice's Baby Snooks radio show and dramatic scenes involving her and her daughter.[7]

In addition to Howe, Oscar nominations went to Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie for Best Costume Design, John Kander and Fred Ebb for Best Original Song ("How Lucky Can You Get?"), Peter Matz for Best Scoring of an Original Song Score and/or Adaptation, and the sound crew. Streisand, Caan, and Vereen all received Golden Globe Award nominations, as did Kander and Ebb and the film itself, but it was shut out of any wins in both competitions.[8]


Funny Lady received mixed reviews from critics. It holds a rating of 33% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 12 reviews.[9]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "As long as Miss Streisand as Fanny is singing the blues, or singing anything else, 'Funny Lady' is superb entertainment, but the minute she stops the movie turns into a concrete soufflé. It's heavy and tasteless ... Moments meant to be dramatic are embarrassingly bad."[10] Roger Ebert gave the film 1 star out of 4 and called it "a big, messy flop of a movie that's almost cruel in the way it invites our memories of 'Funny Girl' and doesn't match them."[11] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded 2.5 stars out of 4 and wrote, "It takes few chances and delivers mostly what you'd expect ... What was missing, for me at least, was a sense of surprise, of unpredictability—the sort of wit or pacing that separates a memorable musical like 'Cabaret' from the merely tuneful."[12] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote, "Streisand is in beautiful voice, and her singing is terrific—too terrific. It's no longer singing, it's something else—that strident overdramatization that turns a song into a big number. The audience's attention is directed away from the music and onto the star's feat in charging it with false energy. Streisand is out to knock you cold, and you get cold, all right." Kael also criticized the plot as "right out of those terrible forties movies in which couples who break up spend a lifetime thinking about each other, with encounters every five or ten years. And we get a double load of it here, with two graying ex-husbands."[13] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote, "Barbra Streisand was outstanding as the younger Fanny Brice in 'Funny Girl,' and in 'Funny Lady' she's even better ... However much of a letdown the plot becomes, there's no denying the superior integration of drama, comedy, show music and personal dramatic music en route."[1] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Barbra Streisand, like the picture, extends the characterization she launched so dazzlingly in 'Funny Girl' ... What I find most impressive and likable about the performance is the softened, bittersweet maturity that Streisand lets us see in Fanny Brice. You sense that Streisand understands the star as well as she understood the impetuous young hopeful. An extraordinary presentation is the power and delight of both movies."[14] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called it a "lavish but uninspired" film that "seems to be celebrating stardom for stardom's sake. It's a joyless, mechanical Big Movie Musical."[15]

James Caan thought there were "too many cooks messing around" the film, although he liked his performance.[16]

Box office

The film grossed $40,055,897 at the U.S. box office, making it the seventh highest grossing picture of 1975.


The film was nominated for five Academy Awards:[17]

It was also nominated for six Golden Globe Awards:[18]


The soundtrack peaked on the Billboard Album Chart at number 6 and was certified gold.[19] A majority of the songs were written by Kander and Ebb.[20]

See also


  1. Murphy, Arthur D. (March 5, 1975). "Film Reviews: Funny Lady". Variety. 20.
  2. "Funny Lady, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 22, 2012.
  3. Funny Girl to Funny Lady (1975) at IMDb
  4. Waldman, p.120-121
  5. Funny Lady history, accessed March 4, 2009
  6. Nickens and Swenson, pp.124-125
  7. Nickens and Swenson, p. 129
  8. Internet Movie Database listing, "Funny Lady" awards, accessed March 3, 2009
  9. Funny Lady. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  10. Canby, Vincent (March 12, 1975). "Streisand as Fanny Brice (Continued)". The New York Times. 30.
  11. Ebert, Roger (March 13, 1975). "Funny Lady". Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  12. Siskel, Gene (March 13, 1975). "Streisand's 'Funny Lady'". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 6.
  13. Kael, Pauline (March 17, 1975). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 112, 114.
  14. Champlin, Charles (March 14, 1975). "A Funny Girl Grows Up". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  15. Arnold, Gary (March 12, 1975). "The Second Time Around, a Not-So-Funny 'Lady'". The Washington Post. B1.
  16. James Caan's career hitting tough times Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 27 Nov 1977: e6.
  17. "The 48th Academy Awards (1976) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-02.
  18. "Winners and Nomines:1976". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 2017-01-30.
  19. Billboard
  20. "Tracks"


  • Nickens, Christopher and Swenson, Karen (2001). The Films of Barbra Streisand, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-1954-1
  • Waldman, Allison J. (2001). The Barbra Streisand Scrapbook, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-2218-6
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