Long before the devil donned Prada or Tyra Banks fancied herself a modern-day, pop-eyed Henry Higgins, there was "Funny Face." The movie musical turns 50 this week, and it has aged better than a bottle of Cognac. Watch Audrey Hepburn -- as bewildered and fine-boned as a newborn fawn -- molt from a meek bookstore clerk to, well, America's next top model, and you realize the film is both a sly poke in the kohled eye of fashion and an hommage to the altar of style. It's "Pygmalion" in the most flattering shade of pink.
The film has fascinating footnotes too. Hepburn, then 27, crooned her own tunes. Fred Astaire was 30 years older, though he plays the fashion photographer who discovers her and later woos her. (Hepburn once confessed that she was terrified to meet her childhood idol: "I remember being so shaken that I threw up my breakfast." I just wish she had been more specific. Poached eggs? A pancake?) The photographs in the film, including that kicky photo montage of haute Hepburn in Paris, came from legendary lens man Richard Avedon, who inspired Astaire's character.
Then, there was Givenchygate. The story goes that Hepburn demanded that she be allowed to have designer Hubert de Givenchy create her confections. A few years earlier, Givenchy had created the iconic black gown and other Parisian looks she wore in "Sabrina," but Paramount head costumer Edith Head took sole credit when she accepted an Academy Award for best costume design for the 1954 film. This time around, Hepburn made sure Givenchy got his due; he shared a credit with the famous costumer on a "Funny Face" Academy Award nomination. A furious Head had been relegated to outfitting the costars.