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September 15, 2006

The Gap Defaces Movie History

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Sheigh thinks that The Gap ought to be ashamed of itself for what it has done to the work of Audrey Hepburn, Hubert de Givenchy, and Stanley Donen. Paramount, who leased the rights to use "Funny Face" in this way, ought to be double-ashamed, IMHO.

With a score (mostly) by the Gershwins and a story said to be inspired by the career of Richard Avedon, "Funny Face" is stylish, touching fluff, and one of the most charming of the big splashy '50s musicals. The DVD version of the film can be bought for $9.95.



UPDATE: Thanks to Ken Hirsch, who points out a good and informative obituary of the film's screenwriter, Leonard Gershe.

posted by Michael at September 15, 2006


I thoroughly agree. Y'know, movie folks are constantly whining the Hollywood-ites "aren't taken seriously"--and then they treat their own legacy cheaply. Sigh. I guess Givenchy has passed away, huh? Otherwise, why would he let his designs be used in ads for The Gap? (Let alone that Audrey Hepburn never agreed to endorse Gap clothes. In fact, Hepburn wouldn't even do an ad for Tiffany's when she was alive, to advertise "Breakfast at..."). But I guess it was Paramount's call. They followed the music biz, using "Anticipation" for a ketchup ad and John Lennon to sell running shoes.

Posted by: annette on September 15, 2006 11:39 AM


Posted by: sheigh on September 15, 2006 11:43 AM

There's an obituary for Funny Face screenwriter Leonard Gershe here which explains how the movie came about. Of course Astaire's character's name is Dick Avery, just a slightly disguised version of Richard Avedon. Avedon worked on the film, consulting on the colors, the fashion photography sequences, and the titles. He took most of the still shots that appear as Dick Avery's work in the film.

Director Stanley Donen says that the only major difference of opinion he had with Audrey Hepburn during the filming was whether she should wear white socks during the dance scene (the one used in the Gap ad). Donen had to order her to do it against here wishes. After she saw the edited scene, she sent him a note that just said "You were right about the socks."

Posted by: Ken Hirsch on September 15, 2006 1:24 PM

Oh, who cares?! So they use the iconic Hepburn to sell retro slacks. Makes sense to me. To be sure, it be would be a bummer to be seeing Funny Face for the first time with this spot at the front of your mind. But culture often works that way. Anything that makes a splash in the collective imagination gets reworked a zillion times; anybody coming to the original 50 years later has to scrape away the palimpsest.

I don't get your outrage. Can you make me feel it?

...And now that I think about it, I retract "To be sure, it would be a bummer..." Isn't the accretion, and the discovery of the original underneath it, one of the pleasures of culture?

Posted by: robert on September 15, 2006 3:23 PM

I saw the Gap ad on TV last night ultimately was charmed by its inventivenss. It reminded me of Hepburn's charisma, even though her gamin figure was the opposite of the typically voluptuous sex symbol (and whose current representative as "sexiest tomboy beanpole on the planet" is the delectable Keira Knightly).

It also made me want to search out "Funny Face" again. I wonder how many younger people, who probably don't even know who Hepburn was, might be spurred to search out her films?

As an aside, the use of Hepburn's image in the ad brings up those issues of intellectual property and use of image again, especially in light of the point that Hepburn would not do ads for Tiffany as part of movie promotion when she was alive.

Posted by: Alec on September 15, 2006 3:41 PM

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