You often have to suspend your modern feminist principles in order enjoy films of the 50s. For instance, in An American in Paris, the viewer must swallow the fact that Gene Kelly chooses the inane 15 year old with buck teeth over the confident, intelligent, and elegant older woman whom he frankly treats pretty rudely. I love you Gene, but seriously – not cool. And in almost every second Doris Day film, she has to give up her tomboyish ways and learn how to be a ‘real’ woman in order to nab her man.
Similarly, in Funny Face, you are expected to completely get behind the idea that the young, beautiful, educated, passionate Audrey Hepburn character of Jo would fall for crusty old stick in the mud Fred Astaire. Insert disbelieving snort here.
That isn’t to say I don’t love this film – of course I do. But is there anyone in the history of the world who has watched it and not been internally screaming ‘AUDREY, YOU CAN DO BETTER!’ Fred might be light on his feet, but he is no George Peppard (oh, George. Let’s all just take a moment out to daydream here. Sigh. Okay, back to reality. Sigh. No really, back to reality now).
That said, Funny Face is one of the best musicals of the 50s, or in fact of any period, full stop. This has quite a lot to do with the incredible costumes throughout, designed by the uber partnership of Edith Head (head designer for Paramount) and Hubert de Givenchy. Of course it helps when a film is set in Paris, in the 50s, and based around the idea of one of the most beautiful women ever to walk the earth modelling the latest fashions for a magazine. If you get that wrong, there is something going seriously wrong. You could put Audrey in a smock fashioned from mouldy carrot peelings held together by paper clips, and she would still make every woman in the room feel a frump.