Fanny Brice

Active - 1928 - 1991  |   Born - Oct 29, 1891   |   Died - May 29, 1951   |   Genres - Musical, Drama, Comedy

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Biography by AllMovie

Widely celebrated as one of the most beloved comediennes in the history of entertainment, stage and screen star Fanny Brice tickled audience's funny bones for more than a decade as the main attraction of Broadway's Ziegfeld Follies in the early 1900s. She later moved successfully into film and radio, where her comic talents helped her flourish as the lovably bratty Baby Snooks. The third child in a family that included four siblings, Brice was born Fanny Borach to immigrant saloon proprietors in the Lower East Side of New York in 1891. She was smitten with the life of a performer from an early age, and performances in her father's saloon soon led her to participate in a local amateur talent contest. After taking home the prize, the adorable lass charmed moviegoers by singing and playing piano in a local cinema. She dropped out of school after the eighth grade and worked as a chorus girl in a burlesque review (changing her name in hopes of avoiding Jewish typecasting), and soon found herself in increased demand for stage roles. In 1910, Brice was approached by Max Spiegel to star in College Girls, and she, in turn, asked songwriter Irving Berlin to write her some memorable songs for the occasion. The resulting tune, "Sadie Salome, Go Home," quickly become the actress' trademark.

Despite the fact that Brice had briefly married early in life, it was her second union that really fueled the tabloids. Wed to con man Jules Arnstein in 1919, Brice remained steadfastly at her husband's side despite frequent philandering and a stint in prison. When Arnstein was charged with Wall Street bond theft in 1924, Brice spared no expense to fund his defense. Arnstein was eventually convicted and, upon his release in 1927, abandoned his wife and two children. Though audiences turned out in droves to see Brice perform in Ziegfeld Follies in the 1920s and '30s, attempts to establish herself as a serious dramatic actress proved less than fruitful. In the years that followed, she appeared in small capacities in numerous films (as well as starring in 1930's Be Yourself). She married again in 1929, this time to Broadway impresario Billy Rose. Although her third marriage was brief and her film career never quite took off, Brice found fame in her later years when she launched a weekly radio show in 1938. Her final wave of success endured until her death from a cerebral hemorrhage in May 1951.

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