Funny Girl Crying On The Inside

Funny Girl Crying On The Inside

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The job and passion of comediennes is to make the audience laugh, but Fanny Brice was a funny girl crying on the inside. Fannie Borach, or Fanny Brice, was a popular Jewish influential American comedienne and singer. She was born in 1891 and died in 1951. She was the creator and star of the top-rating radio comedy series, The Baby Snooks Show. It ran from 1936 to the time of her death.

First Appearance

Brice first appeared in a talent contest at age 13. Brice’s infectious style of comedy made her the featured performer of nearly all Ziegfield Follies from 1910 through 1923. Brice became the first woman to star in a sound motion picture, but both her films were failures and Brice soon returned to Broadway.

Besides her Broadway and radio success, Brice also had top ten hits with My Man (#1 in 1992), Second Hand Rose (#3, 1922), I’m an Indian (#9, 1922) and I’d Rather Be Blue Over You (Than Be Happy With Somebody Else) (1929).

Funny Girl Crying On The Inside Had A Broken Family

Brice’s father was such a heavy gambler it caused his wife to leave him. In 1902, she took her children to Brooklyn to buy and sell real estate. Brice accepted the estrangement from her father as irrevocable. It was symbolic of Funny Girl crying on the inside.

Brice was a chronic truant and ended her formal education around the 8th grade. Her success was in neighbourhood amateur-night contests. Brice had a short-lived marriage with a local barber, Frank White, as a teenager. She was fired from her first real stage job because she couldn’t dance. Someone described Brice as “A lanky teenager with a big nose and wide mouth”.

Ziegfeld Folly

Brice became a Ziegfeld Folly in 1910. Being one of Ziegfeld’s Follies was a roller-coaster ride for Brice, coming and going from the Follies. Ziegfield used Brice because of her humour. She was not the usual beauty that Ziegfield employed.

The suave Nicky Arnstein, passionate gambler and conman, was already married when he met Brice, in 1912. They lived together for six years.

Brice pawned jewellery to finance unsuccessful appeals for wire-tapping charges against Arnstein. He was sentenced to Sing Sing, but Brice secured a pardon for him in June 1917. Brice and Arnstein married in 1918.

Funny Girl Crying On The Inside Over Bond Thefts

After giving birth to a daughter in 1919, Brice was back at work, earning $2,500 a week. Arnstein was secretly working with Rothstein to organise bond robberies around Manhattan’s US Treasury. They recruited Hollywood stars, such as Al Jolson, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, to advertise Liberty Bonds, to raise money for America’s war effort.

Half the US population subscribed to the fourth issue, with Liberty Bonds paid to whoever presented the bond paper. From 1918, the bandits stole $5 million in bonds from Wall Street couriers, who had often prearranged the robbery. Mr ‘Arnold’ was identified as the mastermind. When told of the arrest of her husband, Brice told the police, “Nicky Arnstein couldn’t mastermind an electric light bulb into a socket”.

Signature Song For Funny Girl Crying On The Inside

In the 1921 Follies, Brice was featured singing My Man, which became both a big hit and her signature song. Brice did some of her best comic material in the Follies of 1921 and caused a sensation with an uncharacteristically serious selection, My Man. Arnstein became known as ‘Mr. Brice’.

Instead of the usual animated parody she typically offered, Brice stood almost motionless as she sang ‘Mr Man‘. She sang it without the funny accent and created the illusion she was sharing her own painful experience. It produced a powerful emotional effect on audiences.

Nose Job For Funny Girl Crying On The Inside

Brice was the first woman to get a cosmetic nose job. She was tired of being the butt of Jewish jokes and felt cosmetic surgery would help her dramatic aspirations. Funny girl crying on the inside.

In 1927, Arnstein only served three years of his prison sentence. Brice and Arnstein divorced a year later. She cited Arnstein’s constant infidelity as the cause.  He argued her nose job had made her more beautiful and uncomfortable in her presence and sought the company of plainer women.

Funny Girl crying on the inside, but she never let her audience down. The unfaithful Arnstein disappeared from Brice’s life and that of their two children.

Third Marriage And Stardom

Fanny Brice married songwriter and stage producer and theatrical showman, Billy Rose, in 1929. Brice appeared in his revue Crazy Quilt, among others. That marriage failed as well, after only nine years.

Film stardom eluded Brice, despite working in seven films. She achieved her greatest stage triumphs in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1934 and 1936, where she created some of her most memorable comic characters. From Soul Saving Sadie (a spoof on evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson) to Countess Dubinsky (a parody of strip teasing and fan dancing) and Modernistic Moe (a burlesque of modern dancer Martha Graham).

Baby Snooks

Her characters included a toddler, Baby Snooks, which she performed complete with hair ribbon, starched pinafore, ankle socks, and Mary Janes. Baby Snooks was based on a character Fanny had spontaneously created at a party in 1921 and had used again for sketches in Sweet and Low before introducing her in the Follies. This character would lead Brice to stardom she desired.

Brice was 45 years old when she began her long and successful radio life. She was completely devoted to the character, Baby Snook. She told biographer Norman Katkov: “Snooks is just the kid I used to be. She’s my kind of youngster, the type I like. She has imagination. She’s eager. She’s alive. With all her devilry, she is still a good kid, never vicious or mean. I love Snooks, and when I play her, I do it as seriously as if she were real. I am Snooks. For 20 minutes or so, Fanny Brice ceases to exist.”

Brice was contemplating retirement when she had a stroke on May 24, 1951. She died in Los Angeles, five days later, without regaining consciousness.

Lost Legacy

As most of Brice’s early work centred on live performances, much of her legacy is lost in the whispers of time. Her talent and appeal in live theatre is now mostly legend.

She was a legendary funny face crying on the inside. Despite her personal tragedies, she never let her audience down. Tragedy did not define who she was.

Brice was a survivor of a ruthless business and achieved greatness on her own terms. There have been women pioneers who changed the world, but Brice is remembered as a pioneer for women in comedy. She paved the way for figures like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Amy Poehler, Ali Wong, and so many more. She was a comedienne par excellence and funny girl crying on the inside.

Barbara Steisand

Barbra Streisand starred as Brice in the 1964 Broadway musical Funny Girl, which centred on Brice’s rise to fame and troubled relationship with Arnstein. The show ran for 1,348 performances, then making it one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history. Streisand won the Academy Award for Best Actress for reprising her role in the film version.

Brice is a posthumous recipient of a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for her 1921 recording of My Man. Her voice still echoes across the years.

Women everywhere may not be a Fanny Brice, but they have a voice  of value in their sphere of influence. A voice they can use to good in a man’s world.

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