Classic Hollywood: A funny thing about 'Funny Face'

This is Susan King, a 26-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times and guardian of the Golden Age of Hollywood galaxy. Every Friday in my Classic Hollywood newsletter, I look at notable births and deaths, fun events happening around town; movie, TV and radio milestones; and memories of those legends I have interviewed over the years.

I have a confession to make about when I first saw Stanley Donen's 1957 musical comedy classic, "Funny Face," starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire and featuring the incredible tunes of George and Ira Gershwin.


I hated it.

I was about 12 and in my "all musicals are stupid" phase. Adding insult to injury, I saw this gorgeous color film on an old black-and-white TV set with tons of commercials.

Thankfully, I grew up and am besotted with the wonderful musical starring Hepburn as a Greenwich Village bohemian working in a bookstore who is chosen by a fashion photographer for a shoot in Paris.

Four years ago, Donen talked with me before his appearance at the TCM Classic Film Festival, where they were screening all three films he made with Hepburn: "Funny Face," 1963's "Charade" and 1967's "Two for the Road."

A scene from the movie "Funny Face," with Kay Thompson, left, Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn.
A scene from the movie "Funny Face," with Kay Thompson, left, Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. (Sergio Strizzi)

Because Hepburn is my favorite actress, I wanted to know what she was like to work with on the three films.

"She was wonderful," recalled Donen. "We only had one disagreement, which I have told about because it tickles me.

"On 'Funny Face,' there was a scene where she danced in a black slacks and top. She said, '[I want to wear] black socks' and I said, 'no, white socks.' She said it will ruin [the uniformity]. You can't have white socks. I made a test with her in the white socks and she kept saying 'black socks.' We were right up to the moment of starting the sequence. I went into her dressing room and said, 'Audrey. We are never going to agree — you will have to wear the white socks.' She said all right. When the rushes came in, she wrote me a little note, 'Dear Stanley, you were right about the socks.'

"She was glorious-looking. She was a lovely, lovely person. We stayed friends."

Date Night

The El Capitan is celebrating Valentine's Day with a special engagement Friday through Monday of Disney's beloved 1955 animated classic "Lady and the Tramp," about the unlikely love affair that develops between a pampered cocker spaniel named Lady and a laid-back adorable mutt named Tramp. Who can resist their spaghetti dinner to the strains of "Bella Notte," which was written by Peggy Lee with music by Sonny Burke?

The spaghetti scene in "Lady and the Tramp."
The spaghetti scene in "Lady and the Tramp." (Walt Disney Pictures)

And if you were a teenager in the 1980s, you undoubtedly saw the 1986 hit "Pretty in Pink," starring Molly RingwaldAndrew McCarthy and Jon Cryer, penned by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch. Fathom Events and Paramount Pictures are bringing back this iconic high school tale for a special 30th-anniversary engagement in theaters Sunday and Feb. 17.

Radio Milestone

On Feb. 12, 1940, the popular DC comic "Superman" hit the radio waves as "The Adventures of Superman" and continued for 2,088 episodes ending March 1, 1951. Bud Collyer, who would become the host from 1956-68 of CBS' popular prime-time quiz show "To Tell the Truth," was the voice of the Man of Steel. Collyer's identity as the actor playing Superman was kept secret for the first six years of the show.


Sneak Peek

In this Sunday's Classic Hollywood, I chat with Dick Guttman, a 60-year veteran publicist who published his autobiography, "Starflacker: Inside the Golden Age of Hollywood," and is a delightful raconteur. He has worked with the likes of Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Jay Leno and Barbra Streisand, and has done Oscar campaigns for such films as  1959's "Room at the Top" and 1967s' "Bonnie and  Clyde." And at the age of 82, he is still going strong.

From the Hollywood Star Walk

Notable births this week include Lorne Greene (Feb. 12); Forrest Tucker (Feb. 12); Tennessee Ernie Ford (Feb. 13); Jean Muir (Feb. 13); Kim Novak (Feb. 13); Jack Benny (Feb. 14); Florence Henderson (Feb. 14); Carmen Miranda (Feb. 14); John Barrymore (Feb. 15); Chris Farley (Feb. 15); Matt Groening (Feb. 15); Cesar Romero (Feb. 15) ; LeVar Burton (Feb. 16); Edgar Bergen (Feb. 16); Vera-Ellen (Feb. 16); Buster Crabbe (Feb. 17); and Arthur Kennedy (Feb. 17)

More Than a Secret Square

This Monday marks the 43rd anniversary of the death of character actor Wally Cox at age 48. Though his acerbic sense of humor made him one of the favorite regulars on the game show "The Hollywood Squares," he was also a terrific actor, especially in the 1952-55 sitcom "Mister Peepers," for which he earned an Emmy nomination. Baby boomers also remember him fondly as the voice of "Underdog" in the 1964-73 Saturday morning animated classic series. Here is the L.A. Times obit as it appeared in the paper on Feb. 16, 1973.