Saturday, November 12, 2011
Fanny Brice, whose story is told in our boxed DVD set of Funny Girl and Funny Lady, rose to fame in the Follies. Ever since I acquired my well-worn LPs of Streisand's Broadway cast album of Funny Girl and of Brice herself singing her priceless comedy songs, I've been fascinated by this Lower East Side girl who made good.
Her mother was a saloon keeper married to a gambler called "Pinochle Charlie" (shades of future husband and fellow ne'er do well Nicky Arnstein). As a child, Fanny Borach danced and sang on bar tops and tables. Too tall and skinny to be a chorus girl, she found a niche singing and clowning around on the vaudeville circuit. When Ziegfeld snapped her up, it paid off in spades: Her first number in the Follies garnered 12 encores, and she soon became his top female star with her spoofs of Camille and vamps like Theda Bara; comedy/ethnic novelties like "Second Hand Rose" and "Becky Is Back at the Ballet"; and her touching renditions of torch songs like "My Man" and "I'd Rather Be Blue." Here are a few rare scenes of her in action.