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Thursday July 18th 2024

Funny Face | 1957

Funny Face film location: Château de la Reine Blanche, Coye-la-Forêt, France
Funny Face location: the wedding day photo-shoot: Château de la Reine Blanche, Coye-la-Forêt, France | Photograph: wikimedia / P.poschadel

Back in more innocent days, no-one batted an eyelid at the 58-year-old Fred Astaire chasing 28-year-old Audrey Hepburn, and it was only common sense for a woman not to bother her pretty little head with intellectual pursuits when given the opportunity to become a fashion model.

That said, Funny Face remains one of the most endearingly enjoyable of old-school musicals, with the George and Ira Gershwin score and Astaire’s twinkly charm staving off any potential creepiness.

It’s set in New York and Paris, though much of the film was shot on the Paramount lot in Hollywood.

There’s a brief second-unit glimpse of Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park in the days when Fifth Avenue traffic still ran through Washington Arch (the park was closed to motor vehicles a couple of years later), but the ‘Greenwich Village’ bookstore in which Jo Stockton (Hepburn) works was a Hollywood set.

As fashion photographer Dick Avery (Astaire) whisks the bookish Jo off to the City of Light there is, for the period, quite a bit of genuine location filming, with Dick and Jo, along with Quality magazine editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) arriving at, what was then Paris’s main airport, Orly Airport.

Orly was to feature on screen a mere two years later when Jean-Luc Godard’s A Bout De Souffle changed cinema forever with the Nouvelle Vague.

The location trip was certainly worthwhile as the Bonjour Paris number features just about every Parisian tourist sight you could want to see.

Funny Face film location: Arc De Triomphe, l'Etoile, Paris
Funny Face location: Dick Avery goes sightseeing: Arc De Triomphe, l’Étoile, Paris

Jo, Dick and Maggie split up, with Dick heading for the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile at the top of the Champs Elysées.

Maggie Prescott plumps for the Place de l’Opéra in front of the flamboyant opera house and the start of luxury shopping street, Rue de la Paix. At the opposite end of Rue de la Paix, she dances with the cab drivers at the entrance to the Ritz Hotel on Place Vendôme.

Jo might have headed to Montparnasse and the Left Bank in search of intellectual stimulation, but instead chooses the photogenic Montmartre (more popularly associated with painters), overlooking the city and dominated by the dazzling white dome of Sacre Coeur.

But there’s something missing... and the trio meet up at that staple of Parisian movies, the Eiffel Tower, Parc du Champ-de-Mars. You can reach the tower via Trocadéro station on Line 9, or Bir-Hakeim on Line 6, which runs above ground and offers a good view before you arrive (as you contemplate your head for heights).

The showroom of designer Paul Duval and the ‘Parisian’ hotel are back at Paramount, but the magazine photoshoots provide the opportunity to see much more of the French capital.

Funny Face film location: Tuileries, Paris
Funny Face location: the rain-drenched balloon photo-shoot: Tuileries, Paris | Photograph: wikimedia / MarkusMark

Jo begins to get into the spirit of modelling clutching a bunch of balloons in the rain in front of the the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (not to be confused with the more famous Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile seen earlier) in the Jardin des Tuileries.

Built in 1808 for the Emperor Napoleon I, as a gateway to the Tuileries Palace (which was destroyed during the Paris Commune in 1871), the arch was originally topped by the famous horses from Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice, which had been captured in 1798 by Napoleon. These were eventually returned to their city of origin and replaced by the specially commissioned triumphal chariot you can see today. The Arc du Carrousel, by the way, inspired the design of the disappointingly horseless Marble Arch – originally the gateway to London’s royal residence, Buckingham Palace.

Jo poses as Anna Karenina in a cloud of steam alongside the Fleche d’Or (Golden Arrow) luxury boat train at the Gare du Nord.

Funny Face film location: Opera Garnier, Place de l'Opera, Paris
Funny Face location: the grand staircase: Opera Garnier, Place de l’Opera, Paris | Photograph: wikimedia / Manfred Heyde

Wrapped in a green cloak, she’s encouraged to flounce furiously down the  extravagantly enormous Grand Staircase of the Opéra Garnier, Place de l’Opéra. Incidentally, the same opera house foyer can also be seen as the lobby of the ‘Paris hotel’ in Interview With The Vampire.

More modestly, Jo manages to catch a small tiddler fishing from a boat in the River Seine, alongside the Pont des Arts.

Funny Face film location: Latona Fountain, Versailles, France
Funny Face location: the ‘fairytale’ photo-shoot: Latona Fountain, Versailles, France

Photograph: wikimedia / Jean-Marie Hullot

It’s in front of the Latona Fountain in the gardens at Chateau de Versailles that she recreates a romantic fairytale moment with a white dove.

Funny Face film location: Daru Staircase, Louvre, Paris
Funny Face location: running down the staircase: Daru Staircase, Louvre, Paris | Photograph: wikimedia / Marie-Lan Nguyen

The sequence climaxes with the captivating moment as Jo, with chiffon scarf ballooning above her head, runs down the Daru Steps in front of the statue of Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre. This is another location revisited by Godard, though with far less reverence, as his characters race through the galleries in 1964’s Bande A Part. And symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to the Louvre at the beginning of The Da Vinci Code.

To visit the film’s most memorable location, you’ll need to leave Paris and travel about 20 miles north toward Chantilly. The little chapel where Jo and Avery launch into He Loves And She Loves during the ‘wedding day’ shoot is the Château de la Reine Blanche, Rue Etang, on the western tip of Étang de la Loge, a lake in Coye-la-Forêt, a couple of miles south of Chantilly. It’s not a chapel at all, but a hunting lodge, revamped for the Duke of Bourbon in the 1820s in the fashionable neo-Gothic style (though the interior is not open to the public). The Chateau at Chantilly (which is open to visitors) is featured in Milos Forman's Valmont and in 1985 Bond movie A View To A Kill.

The Parisian weather wasn’t all it might have been (as you can see in the rain-drenched Tuileries scene), but the liberal use of diffusion filters help to hide the fact that Astaire and Hepburn are sloshing around in mud.

And of course, it’s here the film ends with the pair drifting away on a raft to the strains of S’wonderful.