FANNY BRICE: The Original Funny Girl by Herbert G. Goldman
Kirkus Star

FANNY BRICE: The Original Funny Girl

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

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has had only one previous biography, 1952's The Fabulous Fanny by Norman Katkov, which was adapted from her own unpublished memoirs and had little to say about her career.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.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0195085523
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press