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Funny Lady (1975, Barbra Streisand, James Caan)



After the success of Funny Girl, this sequel was inevitable, and thankfully Barbra Streisand returned to the role to revisit the character that launched her star to stratospheric heights, the continuation of the life story of US comedienne Fanny Brice (1891-1951).

Taking up the tale ten years after the first film ended, Funny Lady begins in 1930 as the Ziegfeld Follies close. The Depression is in full swing and showbiz has been hit hard, leaving Fanny and her personal aid, Bobby (Roddy McDowall), in financial peril. But when livewire songwriter and impresario Billy Rose (James Caan) tricks Fanny into starring in his chaotic travelling production, ‘Crazy Quilt’, her talent, once again, proves irresistible to a loving public.

With a hit show under their belts, Fanny and Billy (whose songs are used in the film) marry. But it’s not a match made in heaven as he is a crude, tasteless upstart producer and she the elegant star. Brice still harbours feelings for her suave, gambling ex-husband, Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif) and, after bumping into him at a polo match, the old passion is rekindled until she finally realises that she’s better off without him.

Elated with her personal discovery, Fanny hurries to tell Billy the news, only to find him cavorting with star Eleanor Holm (Heidi O’Rourke) and, inevitably, Fanny and Billy divorce. It isn’t until years later, when Billy approaches her to work with him again, that Fanny realises she doesn’t need Nick or Billy to be happy. She can stand completely on her own… or not (in fact, pressure from preview audiences drove producer Ray Stark (Brice’s son-in-law) to reunite Billy and Fanny at the end of the film – a purely fictional episode).

‘Barbra Streisand was outstanding… in Funny Girl,’ ran Variety, ‘and in Funny Lady she’s even better.’ Caan, a notoriously ‘difficult’ star, ‘brings a cocksure charm to his role’ (Financial Times) that helps him hold his own in Streisand’s company.

production details
USA | 136 minutes | 1975

Director: Herbert Ross
Script: Arnold Schulman, Jay Presson Allen,

Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice
James Caan as Billy Rose
Omar Sharif as Nicky Arnstein
Roddy McDowall as Bobby Moore
Ben Vereen as Bert Robbins
Carole Wells as Norma Butler
Colleen Camp as Billy’s Girl
Jack Angel as Radio Announcer (voice)
Hank Stohl as Radio Director