American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 22

Fanny Brice

Fanny Brice is the most famous star that people have never seen.  Barbra Streisand portrayed Fanny in two major motion pictures, but, as happens in most of Hollywood bio-pics, Fanny Brice the performer is nowhere to be found in Funny Girl or Funny Lady.

True Fanny was one of the six or seven funniest women of stage or screen, but what made her so special was that people loved her dearly.  Brice was wise, wicked, irreverent, sly, clownish, sexy, awkward and graceful in turn, and, like the best of vaudevillians, she made a few thousand people in a theatre feel as though they had been invited to her party.

Clowning was her greatest talent—she burlesqued ballerinas, concert singers, silent screen vamps and revivalists—but she could sing well, too—anything from ragtime to patter songs to torchy ballads.  She never made the hit she should have in films, but Be Yourself, Everybody Sing and My Man are available on videotape and offer Fanny in some of her great routines.

After 20 years on the stage—burlesque, vaudeville, revues—Fanny made a few films and, in the latter half of the 1930s began a career on radio.  No one could see the glint in her eyes, her rubbery mouth, the angular contortions of her body, but they fell in love with a most mischievous brat—Baby Snooks, a role that she continued to play until her untimely death.