From Anne Hathaway’s Andy in The Devil Wears Prada to America Ferrera’s Ugly Betty, the nerdy-girl-who-works-at-a-magazine archetype is most definitely alive and well in today’s popular culture. Indeed, the image of the scrappy-yet-intelligent ingenue thrust into the snake-pit world of fashion is so common that it almost seems a requirement for today’s romantic comedies. It’s not difficult to imagine why. On one hand, people like feeling above the seemingly trivial world of fashion, something that is facilitated by these characters’ brains-before-beauty mentalities. On the other hand—people also love a good makeover. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that the “Vogue” scene of Devil Wears Prada still gives me goosebumps (werk it, girl!).
Although the brainy-gal-meets-fashion theme has achieved significant omnipresence in recent years, it’s certainly not anything new. In fact, to find the predecessor to The Devil‘s clumsy Andy, one need venture nearly fifty years back—to 1957’s , starring Audrey Hepburn. In the film, Hepburn plays Jo Stockton, a mousy philosophy buff who works at a Greenwich Village bookshop. After catching the eye of the Avedon-esque photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), Jo is cast as the new face of Quality Magazine—a role that Jo isn’t quite prepared to play.
The parallels between The Devil Wears Prada and Funny Face are numerous. In addition to culminating in a fateful trip to Paris, both films feature a strikingly similar cast of supporting characters. In Devil, Meryl Streep plays Miranda Priestly, a magazine editor many have likened to the real-life Anna Wintour. Funny Face’s slightly more amiable editrix is Maggie Prescott, modeled loosely on two esteemed Harper’s Bazaar editors: Carmel Snow and Diana Vreeland. Despite these similarities, though, Funny Face is decidedly more optimistic in its tone than the cynical Devil. Instead of harsh critique of the fashion world, one is treated to a jolly feast of music, romance, and C-O-L-O-R. Apart from having one of the most stunning I’ve ever seen, Funny Face features fabulous set decoration and musical numbers that inspired equally fabulous and remind us to always, always —Max
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Film: Funny Face
Director: Stanley Donen
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Hal Pereira
Set Decoration: Sam Comer, Ray Moyer
Costume Design: Edith Head