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I want to step out
Down the Champs-Élysées,
From the Arch of Triumph
To the Petit Palais.
That’s for me
I want to wander
Through the Saint-Honoré,
Do some window shopping
In the Rue de la Paix
That’s for me
I want to see the den of thinking men
Like Jean-Paul Sartre.
I must philosophize with all the guys
Around Montmartre and Montparnasse.
I’m strictly tourist
But I couldn’t care less.
When they parlez-vous me
Then I gotta confess.
That’s for me
–Songwriters: Leonard Gershe / Roger Edens
I have to confess that since I began contributing to Bonjour Paris, I always hear the website’s name in my head as pronounced by Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn and Kay Thompson in the 1957 film Funny Face: Bonjour Paree!
Director Stanley Donen’s Funny Face shows a Paris as scrubbed and perfect as Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie, both appealing to our inner Francophile and starting a life-long desire to capture a bit of that Parisian magic, whether real or conjured.
Funny Face starts with the discovery of Jo Stockton, played by Audrey Hepburn – a shy “bluestocking” working in a Greenwich Village bookstore. Fashion photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) is struck by Jo’s pretty, yet clever looks and together with the publisher of Quality, Maggie Prescott, played by Kay Thompson, they believe Jo has the potential to be the next big thing on the pages of their magazine.
As an intellectual and literary young woman, Jo agrees to this scheme only as a passage to Paris where she can follow in the steps of Sartre and revel in cool Beat poetry. She quickly loses the thread of why she’s in Paris and Maggie and Dick stage a ruse to win her back.
Haute couture wins over elevated thoughts and Jo gets with the program, playing the ‘ugly duckling turned swan role’ that Audrey Hepburn reprised throughout her career, swanning about in costumes designed by Hubert de Givenchy. In the process Dick and Jo fall in love amid iconic Parisian settings.
The song “Bonjour Paris” accompanies a whimsical tour of the French capital focusing on its landmarks. No I.M. Pei Louvre Pyramid here, no Centre Pompidou. This is Paris in the ’50s– rife with Citroen 2CVs, Beatniks and black Juliette Greco turtlenecks.
All three travelers submit that they are far too tired to explore the delights of Paris, yet, as the song reveals, they can’t wait to see the sights in the city of lights. Dicks hits the Paris streets like a flâneur born to them. Publisher Prescott visits the Louvre and other monuments interacting with somewhat sarcastic museum attendants. Jo wants to follow in the footsteps of the philosophers of Montmartre and Montparnasse. Then… Mon Dieu! All three realize they’ve missed the most important Paris icon of all — the Eiffel Tower! — and they spontaneously meet up there.
Funny Face is a pretty, fun, yet predictable movie featuring many memorable songs: “S’wonderful,” “How Long Has This Been Going On” and the song “Funny Face” itself.
Fred Astaire’s character Dick Avery is very openly based on the young fashion photographer Richard Avedon, who took the movie’s still fashion photos of Hepburn.
Kay Thompson, surprisingly, is in her only major movie role. A multi-talented woman, Thompson was better known as a singer and the creator of the Eloise series of children’s books.
Audrey Hepburn and Stanley Donen successfully pair up again in the 1963 movie Charade, one of the best whodunit movies ever made and again set against the scrubbed façade of Paris. What’s not to love? Charade features a cast of Cary Grant, James Coburn, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy and Ned Glass and is set in the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Seine with the final showdown at the Palais Royale.
Hepburn, playing the oblivious widow Reggie Lambert, holds her own against three, four, or is it five adversaries? Cary Grant is brilliant, despite his multiple identities.
If you find yourself inside this autumn, make way for a little Paris make-believe with Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Cary Grant in the classics Funny Face and Charade.
Lead photo credit : Screenshot from the "Funny Face (1975)- "Bonjour Paris" Song - Audrey Hepburn & Fred Astaire (4 of 10)" youtube clip