Fanny Brice

Fanny Brice : The Original Funny Girl

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Description

"I've done everything in the theatre except marry a property man," Fanny Brice once boasted. "I've acted for Belasco and I've laid 'em out in the rows at the Palace. I've doubled as an alligator; I've worked for the Shuberts; and I've been joined to Billy Rose in the holy bonds. I've painted the house boards and I've sold tickets and I've been fired by George M. Cohan. I've played in London before the king and in Oil City before miners with lanterns in their caps." Fanny Brice was indeed show business personified, and in this luminous volume, Herbert G. Goldman, acclaimed biographer of Al Jolson, illuminates the life of the woman who inspired the spectacularly successful Broadway show and movie Funny Girl, the vehicle that catapulted Barbra Streisand to super stardom. In a work that is both glorious biography and captivating theatre history, Goldman illuminates both Fanny's remarkable career on stage and radio--ranging from her first triumph as "Sadie Salome" to her long run as radio's "Baby Snooks"--and her less-than-triumphant personal life. He reveals a woman who was a curious mix of elegance and earthiness, of high and low class, a lady who lived like a duchess but cursed like a sailor. She was probably the greatest comedienne the American stage has ever known as well as our first truly great torch singer, the star of some of the most memorable Ziegfeld Follies in the 1910s and 1920s, and Goldman covers her theatrical career and theatre world in vivid detail. But her personal life, as Goldman shows, was less successful. The great love of her life, the gangster Nick Arnstein, was dashing, handsome, sophisticated, but at bottom, a loser who failed at everything from running a shirt hospital to manufacturing fire extinguishers, and who spent a good part of their marriage either hiding out, awaiting trial, or in prison. Her first marriage was over almost as soon as it was consummated, and her third and last marriage, to Billy Rose, the "Bantam Barnum," ended acrimoniously when Rose left her for swimmer Eleanor Holm. As she herself remarked, "I never liked the men I loved, and I never loved the men I liked." Through it all, she remained unaffected, intelligent, independent, and, above all, honest. Goldman's biography of Al Jolson has been hailed by critics, fellow biographers, and entertainers alike. Steve Allen called it "an amazing job of research" and added "Goldman's book brings Jolson back to life indeed." The Philadelphia Inquirer said it was "the most comprehensive biography to date," and Ronald J. Fields wrote that "Goldman has captured not only the wonderful feel of Al Jolson but the heartbeat of his time." Now, with Fanny Brice, Goldman provides an equally accomplished portrait of the greatest woman entertainer of that illustrious era, a volume that will delight every lover of the stage.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 318 pages
  • 162.56 x 236.22 x 30.48mm | 725.74g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • frontispiece, 16 pp halftones
  • 0195057252
  • 9780195057256

About Herbert G. Goldman

About the Author: Herbert G. Goldman is a free-lance writer who lives in New York City. He is currently working on a biography of Eddie Cantor.show more

Review Text

Well-written life of the great comedienne, today known best as the original of Barbra Streisand's Funny Girl and Funny Woman; by the author of 1988's well-received Jolson. Goldman, an intense researcher, caps his present bio with a big stageography-filmography-discography-bibliography. Brice (1891-1951) has had only one previous biography, 1952's The Fabulous Fanny by Norman Katkov, which was adapted from her own unpublished memoirs and had little to say about her career. Aside from Streisand's misleading musical film-bios, she is semi-forgotten and remembered largely for her radio shows as Baby Snooks. But in many ways, her life holds tremendous fascination, and the present work hasn't a dull moment. Brice, born Borach on New York's Lower East Side, showed early comic talents, began earning $30 a week as a kid by winning amateur contests all over Brooklyn and Manhattan and playing in light stage-shows. She grew professionally in vaudeville and burlesque, moving from chorus girl to singer-dancer, was a knockout at Yiddish dialect or throwaway lines of Brooklynese (which Streisand captured perfectly). Then, at only 19, she landed in Ziegfeld's Follies for 1910 and thereafter was featured in every edition but two until 1923. As a singer she could thrill audiences, much like Al Jolson or the later Judy Garland, while her genius for comedy, as in her mock ballet "The Dying Duck," melted them into salty puddles of hysteria. Her fame grew exponentially when her first husband, con man Nick Arnstein, was jailed and later became a world-famous fugitive. His selfishness finally killed the marriage, and Fanny later married impresario Billy Rose, another failed union. Her great hit, a closed-eyes rendition of "My Man," was not the show-stopper of Funny Girl: audiences at the real thing were too wiped out for a huge response. A celebrity bio the way they should be written. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

99 ratings
3.67 out of 5 stars
5 20% (20)
4 40% (40)
3 27% (27)
2 11% (11)
1 1% (1)
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