This is your life?

April 26, 2009




Last night, after watching a two-year-old Barbra Streisand concert on CBS, we switched to American Movie Classics to catch most of “Funny Girl,” the 1968 film starring Streisand and Omar Sharif. This is still an entertaining film in its way, but it seems interminable. Like it or not, it’s a shame that this film is responsible for the impressions most people today have of Fanny Brice and “Nicky” Arnstein, because the story line might as well be about two other people entirely. The characterization of Fanny Brice – her upbringing, her personality, her love life, her relationship with Florenz Ziegfeld – none of it is true. 




What’s even farther afield is the portrayal of “Nicky” Arnstein, who is presented in the film as a handsome, cultured, lovable rascal whose pride wouldn’t allow him to accept his wife’s financial help when his gambling luck ran out. In actual fact, Arnstein was a louse who shamelessly sponged off Brice for years. Brice – who had two other marriages – lived with Arnstein for six or seven years before they married, and he took full advantage of her resources and her status. He did time in Sing Sing before they married – this is not mentioned in the film – and he did 13 months in Leavenworth during their marriage after he was caught trying to transport stolen securities into Washington, D.C. Brice spent a lot of her money trying to defend him from the federal charge, and then he dropped her cold when he got out of stir. Why someone with Fanny Brice’s talent wanted to associate in any way with Arnstein I am not aware.

Apparently there were at least two reasons why the movie – and the Broadway show that inspired it – departed so far from the facts of Brice’s life. One was that the writers were trying to create good entertainment, not a documentary. The other was that Arnstein was still alive when this material was written and was known to be prepared to litigate anything derogatory said about him.


5 Responses to “This is your life?”

  1. bart Says:

    My experience is that lots of intelligent, beautiful women like dudes who are bad for them.

    Given my general underground existence, I thank god every day for this fact.

  2. Beth Madron Says:

    Funny Girl is one of my favorite films. The producer of the movie is Fanny Brice’s son in law-Ray Stark. They also left out that Fanny had a brother. He chose not to be involved in the project so he was written out of the script.

  3. jan Says:

    “Funny Girl” is also a favourite of mine. How very interesting to read the real facts about these two characters. He must have had charisma cause he sure doesn’t have Omar Shariff’s looks.

    • charlespaolino Says:

      Yes, it’s difficult to imagine why a woman of Fanny Brice’s talent would have wasted her time on a man like Arnstein.

  4. Tracie Says:

    Hello, I have a very unique picture that I believe is Fanny Brice, I was wondering if you could tell me any more information about the picture, please send me an email and I will send over the picture for you.
    Thanks for your time.

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