Funny Lady is a 1975 American musical film starring Barbra Streisand, James Caan, Omar Sharif, Roddy McDowall, and Ben Vereen.
A sequel to the 1968 film Funny Girl, it is a highly fictionalized account of the later life and career of comedian Fanny Brice and her marriage to songwriter and impresario Billy Rose. The screenplay was by Jay Presson Allen and Arnold Schulman, based on a story by Schulman. The primary score was by John Kander and Fred Ebb. It was directed by Herbert Ross.
Although she was contractually bound to make one more film for producer Ray Stark (Fanny Brice’s one-time son-in-law), Streisand balked at doing the project. She told Stark „that it would take litigation to make her do a sequel.“ However, Streisand liked the script, which showed Fanny to be „…tougher, more acerbic, more mature…“, and she agreed to do the film.
The first actor to read for the role of Billy Rose was Robert Blake. Other actors were mentioned, including Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, but ultimately James Caan was chosen. Streisand explained: „It comes down to whom the audience wants me to kiss. Robert Blake, no. James Caan, yes.“
Stark, unhappy with the scenes shot by the original cinematographer, lured an ailing James Wong Howe out of retirement to complete the film. It proved to be his final project, and it earned him an Academy Award nomination.
Studio heads forced Ross to trim the film to a manageable 136 minutes prior to its release. Much of Vereen’s performance ended up on the cutting room floor, together with a recreation of Brice’s Baby Snooks radio show and dramatic scenes involving her and her daughter.
In addition to Howe, Oscar nominations went to Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie for Best Costume Design, John Kander and Fred Ebb for Best Original Song („How Lucky Can You Get?“), Peter Matz for Best Scoring of an Original Song Score and/or Adaptation, and the sound crew. Streisand, Caan, and Vereen all received Golden Globe Award nominations, as did Kander and Ebb and the film itself, but it was shut out of any wins in both competitions.
The film grossed $40,055,897 at the U.S. box office, making it the seventh highest grossing picture of 1975.
James Caan thought there were „too many cooks messing around“ the film, although he liked his performance.
The film was nominated for five Academy Awards:
It was also nominated for six Golden Globe awards including Best Picture Musical/Comedy, Best Actress for Barbra Streisand, and Best Actor for James Caan.
The soundtrack peaked on the Billboard Album Chart at number 6 and was certified gold.
The original 1975 Arista soundtrack, with all songs by Kander and Ebb, unless otherwise noted:
The CD versions in print since 1998 are slightly different, relisted to match the order in the film, and with a couple of alternate versions and a bonus track: