Ty and Janice Page go deep on "Funny Girl," which Janice has seen dozens of times and Ty finally saw last week.
One of the things I miss about working at the Boston Globe is shooting the movie breeze with Janice Page, one-time Living Arts editor at the paper, current arts editor at the Washington Post, and herself a long-established film critic. But we stay in touch, and a while back she called me to vent about the new production of “Funny Girl” on Broadway, the one starring Beanie Feldstein and a truckload of chutzpah. Janice was disappointed, to put it mildly, and the conversation turned to a consideration of the 1968 film version and its delivering of Barbra Streisand (above) on the half-shell to a dazzled Middle America. How often (Janice asked) does a film come along that represents a perfect fusing of a star’s persona and the role they’re playing? Could anyone else play Fanny Brice? Should anyone else play Fanny Brice?
It was around this point that I gently cleared my throat and admitted that I had never actually seen “Funny Girl,” aside from the “Don’t Rain on My Parade” sequence, which I regularly show my students. A shocked silence ensued, until I explained that there’s a whole range of mid-60s musicals that no one thought to take young boys to see, including “Funny Girl,” “The Sound of Music,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and others. (Although I do remember seeing “Oliver!” in theaters, because I guess a toe-tapping show about starving orphans and whores getting beaten to death was thought sufficiently brutal.) My wife long ago made sure I had “Birdie” and “Sound of Music” under my belt, but “Funny Girl” had somehow eluded me. So I recently watched it in the only appropriate setting: With my wife and her parents in their Florida home, my father-in-law being a retired Long Island gastroenterologist and a major Streisand fanatic.
And it was good.
In this podcast, Janice and I discuss the background and enduring appeal of “Funny Girl,” how Streisand revolutionized accepted standards and narratives of female stardom, why the real Nicky Arnstein was no prize, and the Footie Pajama Theory™, or why you will never, ever have critical distance on any movie you loved as a child. Have a listen, and tell us what that movie is for you.
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