Fania Borach (October 29, 1891 – May 29, 1951), known professionally
as Fanny Brice, was an American illustrated song model, comedian,
singer, theater, and film actress who made many stage, radio, and film
appearances and is known as the creator and star of the top-rated
radio comedy series The
Baby Snooks Show. Thirteen years after her
death, she was portrayed on the Broadway stage by
Barbra Streisand in
the 1964 musical Funny Girl and its 1968 film adaptation, for which
Streisand won an Oscar.
1 Early life
3 Television appearance and later years
4 Personal life
6.1 Brice portrayals
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Brice c. 1910s or early 1920s publicity photo
Fania Borach was born in Manhattan, New York City, the third child of
Rose (née Stern 1867-1941), a Hungarian Jewish woman who emigrated to
America at age ten, and Alsatian immigrant Charles Borach. The
Boraches were saloon owners and had four children: Phillip, born in
1887; Carrie, born in 1889; Fania, born in 1891; and Louis, born in
1893. Under the name Lew Brice, her younger brother also became an
entertainer and was the first husband of actress Mae Clarke. In
1908, Brice dropped out of school to work in a burlesque revue, "The
Girls from Happy Land Starring Sliding Billy Watson". Two years later
she began her association with Florenz Ziegfeld, headlining his
Ziegfeld Follies from 1910 to 1911. She was hired again in 1921 and
performed in the Follies into the 1930s. In the 1921 Follies, she was
featured singing "My Man", which became both a big hit and her
signature song. She made a popular recording of it for the Victor
Talking Machine Company. The second song most associated with Brice is
"Second Hand Rose", which she also introduced in the Ziegfeld Follies
She recorded nearly two dozen record sides for Victor and also cut
several for Columbia Records. She is a posthumous recipient of a
Grammy Hall of Fame Award for her 1921 recording of "My Man".
Brice's Broadway credits include Fioretta, Sweet and Low, and Billy
Rose's Crazy Quilt. Her films include My Man (1928), Be Yourself!
(1930) and Everybody Sing (1938) with Judy Garland. According to film
historian Richard Barrios, My Man is a lost film. Brice, Ray Bolger
Harriet Hoctor were the only original Ziegfeld performers to
portray themselves in
The Great Ziegfeld
The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and Ziegfeld Follies
Fanny Brice in the role of Baby Snooks, 1940
Brice's first radio show was the Philco Hour in February 1930.
Brice's first regular radio show was probably The Chase and Sanborn
Hour, a thirty-minute program which ran on Wednesday nights at 8 pm in
From the 1930s until her death in 1951, Fanny made a radio presence as
a bratty toddler named Snooks, a role she premiered in a Follies skit
co-written by playwright Moss Hart.
Baby Snooks premiered in The
Ziegfeld Follies of the Air in February 1936 on CBS, with Alan Reed
playing Lancelot Higgins, her beleaguered "Daddy". Brice moved to NBC
in December 1937, performing the Snooks routines as part of the Good
News show, then back to
CBS on Maxwell House Coffee Time, with the
half-hour divided between the Snooks sketches and comedian Frank
In September 1944, Brice's longtime Snooks sketch writers, Philip Rapp
and David Freedman, brought in partners, Arthur Stander and Everett
Freeman, to develop an independent, half-hour comedy program. The
program launched on
CBS in 1944, moving to
NBC in 1948, with Freeman
producing. First called Post Toasties Time (named for the show's first
sponsor), the show was renamed
The Baby Snooks Show
The Baby Snooks Show within short
order, though in later years it was often known colloquially as Baby
Snooks and Daddy. On the spinoff version of Baby Snooks, Hanley
Stafford played Daddy, with Reed instead appearing as Daddy's
employer, Mr. Weemish. Stafford eventually became the longest-running
actor to portray the "Daddy" character.
Brice was so meticulous about the program and the title character that
she was known to perform in costume as a toddler girl even though seen
only by the radio studio audience. She was 45 years old when the
character began her long radio life. In addition to Reed and Stafford,
her co-stars included Lalive Brownell, Lois Corbet and Arlene Harris
playing her mother,
Danny Thomas as Jerry,
Charlie Cantor as Uncle
Louie, and Ken Christy as Mr. Weemish. She was completely devoted to
the character, as she told biographer Norman Katkov: "Snooks is just
the kid I used to be. She's my kind of youngster, the type I like. She
has imagination. She's eager. She's alive. With all her deviltry, she
is still a good kid, never vicious or mean. I love Snooks, and when I
play her I do it as seriously as if she were real. I am Snooks. For 20
minutes or so,
Fanny Brice ceases to exist."
Baby Snooks writer/producer Everett Freeman told Katkov that Brice did
not like to rehearse the role ("I can't do a show until it's on the
air, kid") but always snapped into it on the air, losing herself
completely in the character: "While she was on the air she was Baby
Snooks. And... for an hour after the show, she was still Baby Snooks.
The Snooks voice disappeared, of course, but the Snooks temperament,
thinking, actions were all there."
Television appearance and later years
Brice and Stafford brought
Baby Snooks and Daddy to television only
once, an appearance in June 1950 on CBS-TV's Popsicle Parade of Stars.
This was Fanny Brice's only appearance on television. Brice handled
herself well[according to whom?] on the live TV broadcast but later
admitted that the character of
Baby Snooks just didn’t work properly
when seen.
She returned with Stafford and the Snooks character to the safety of
radio for her next appearance, on Tallulah Bankhead's big-budget,
large-scale radio variety show The Big Show in November 1950, sharing
the bill with
Groucho Marx and Jane Powell. In one routine, Snooks
asks Bankhead for advice on becoming an actress, despite Daddy's
insistence that Snooks has no acting talent.
She resided in a house built in 1938 on North Faring Road in Holmby
Hills, Los Angeles, designed by architect John Elgin Woolf
Brice c. late-1910s
Brice had a short-lived marriage in her teens to a local barber, Frank
White, whom she met in 1910 in Springfield, Massachusetts, when she
was touring in College Girl. The marriage lasted three years and she
brought suit for divorce in 1913.
Her second husband was professional gambler Julius W. "Nicky"
Arnstein. Prior to their marriage, Arnstein served fourteen months in
Sing Sing for wiretapping. Brice visited him in prison every week. In
1918 they were married after living together for six years. In 1924,
Arnstein was charged in a
Wall Street bond theft. Brice insisted on
his innocence and funded his legal defense at great expense. Arnstein
was convicted and sentenced to the federal penitentiary at
Leavenworth, where he served three years. Released in 1927, Arnstein
disappeared from Brice's life and that of his children. Reluctantly,
Brice divorced him on September 17, 1927, soon after his release. They
had two children: Frances (1919–1992), who married film producer Ray
Stark, and William (1921–2008), who became an artist using his
Brice married songwriter and stage producer
Billy Rose in 1929 and
appeared in his revue Crazy Quilt, among others. Their marriage
failed, with Brice suing Rose for divorce in 1938.
Fanny Brice's grave
Six months after her Big Show appearance, on May 29, 1951, Brice died
Cedars of Lebanon Hospital
Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in
Hollywood from a cerebral
hemorrhage at 11:15 a.m.; she was 59.
The May 29, 1951, episode of
The Baby Snooks Show
The Baby Snooks Show was broadcast as a
memorial to Brice who created the brattish toddler, crowned by Hanley
Stafford's brief on-air eulogy: "We have lost a very real, a very
warm, a very wonderful woman." Brice was cremated, and her ashes were
interred in the Chapel Mausoleum at the Jewish Home of Peace Cemetery
in East Los Angeles, California. A half-century later, at the time of
Brice's daughter Frances's death in 1992, Brice's ashes were
re-interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Los Angeles,
some 20 miles west of her original interment place. The ashes and
those of her daughter are in an outdoor pavilion.
Cover of sheet music for Brice's "My Man"
For her contributions to the film and radio industries, Brice was
posthumously inducted into the
Hollywood Walk of Fame with two stars.
Her motion pictures star is located at 6415
Hollywood Boulevard while
her radio star is located at 1500 Vine Street.
The Stony Brook campus of the
State University of New York
State University of New York (SUNY at
Stony Brook) had a Fannie Brice Theatre, a small 75-seat venue which
was used for a variety of performances including a 1988 production of
the musical Hair, staged readings, and a studio classroom space. The
building was razed in 2007 to make way for new dormitories.[citation
Fanny Brice Theatre is one of three situated in the University of
Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts Complex, completed in
Maria Elena Saldana was influenced by Brice and
created a character similar to Brice's Baby Snooks, La Guereja.
In 2006, Brice was featured in the film Making Trouble-Three
Generations of Funny Jewish Women, a tribute to Jewish comedians
produced by the Jewish Women’s Archive.
from the trailer for the film
The Great Ziegfeld
The Great Ziegfeld (1936) in which Brice
appeared as herself
Although the names of the principal characters were changed, the plot
of the 1939 film Rose of Washington Square, in which the principal
characters were portrayed by
Tyrone Power and Alice Faye, was inspired
heavily by Brice's marriage and career, to the extent it borrowed its
title from a tune she performed in the Follies and included "My
Man". Ms. Brice sued 20th Century-Fox for invasion of
privacy and won the case. Producer
Darryl F. Zanuck
Darryl F. Zanuck was forced to
delete several production numbers closely associated with the
Warner Bros. cartoon
Quentin Quail features a character based
on Brice's characterization of Baby Snooks.
Barbra Streisand starred as Brice in the 1964 Broadway musical Funny
Girl, which centered on Brice's rise to fame and troubled relationship
with Arnstein. In 1968, Streisand won an Academy Award for Best
Actress for reprising her role in the film version. The 1975 sequel,
Funny Lady, focused on Brice's turbulent relationship with impresario
Billy Rose and was as highly fictionalized as the original film.
Streisand also recorded the Brice songs "My Man", "I'd Rather Be Blue
Over You (Than Happy with Somebody Else)", and "Second Hand Rose",
which became a Top 40 hit.
Funny Girl, and its sequel Funny Lady, took liberties with the events
of Brice's life. They make no mention of Brice's first husband and
suggest that Arnstein turned to crime because his pride would not
allow him to live off Fanny and that he was wanted by the police for
selling phony bonds. In reality, however, Arnstein sponged off Brice
even before their marriage and was eventually named as a member of a
gang that stole $5 million worth of
Wall Street securities. Instead of
turning himself in, as in the movie, Arnstein went into hiding. When
he finally surrendered, he did not plead guilty as he did in the
movie, but fought the charges, taking a toll on his wife's
In 2010, One Night with Fanny Brice, a one-woman show about Brice
written and directed by
Chip Deffaa and starring Kimberly Faye
Greenberg premiered in New Jersey. The cast album, on the Original
Cast label (OC-3831), was released in September 2010. The next
production of the show, by the American Century Theatre Co. of
Arlington, Virginia, starring Esther Covington, was slated to open in
November 2010, directed by Ellen Dempsey.
Book: Fanny Brice
Academy of Music/Riviera Theatre
^ a b c "
Fanny Brice Dies at the Age of 59". New York Times. May 30,
1951. Retrieved 2014-10-26. Fanny Brice, stage and screen comedienne
Baby Snooks of radio, died at 11:15 A. M. today at the Cedars
of Lebanon Hospital. Her age was 59. Miss Brice suffered a massive
cerebral hemorrhage last Thursday morning and was rushed to the
hospital from her home in Beverly Hills. She never again regained
consciousness, although she was placed in an oxygen tent. ...
^ Herbert G. Goldman (1992). Fanny Brice. Oxford University Press.
pp. 7–10. ISBN 978-0-19-535901-5.
^ Richard Barrios, A Song In The Dark, Oxford University Press, 1975
^ Michele Hilmes.
Fanny Brice and the “Schnooks” Strategy:
Negotiating a Feminine Comic Persona on the Air
Radio Digest magazine, June 1933.
^ Morgan Brennan, Luxury Home Rehab: Inside The $65 Million Fanny
Brice Estate, Forbes, August 28, 2013
^ "New York, New York Marriage Index, 1866-1937". Ancestry.com. New
York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives. Missing or
empty url= (help)
Billy Rose Free to Wed Again - And So's Fannie". Brooklyn Daily
Eagle. 27 Oct 1938. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ "Fanny Brice". FindaGrave.com.
Hollywood Walk of Fame - Fanny Brice". walkoffame.com/. Hollywood
Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
^ Deming, Mark. "Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish
Women". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
^ Quentin Quail, The Big Cartoon Database accessed January 31, 2016
^ Billboard Database,
Barbra Streisand Top 40 Hits accessed January
^ Rumsey, Spencer (8 March 2014). "Fanny Brice: Huntington's Hollywood
Goldman, Herbert, Fanny Brice: The Original Funny Girl, Oxford
University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-19-508552-3.
Grossman, Barbara W. (1992). Funny Woman (A Midland Book). Indiana
University Press. ISBN 978-0253207623.
Billboard Magazine, 6 1951
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Fanny Brice
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fanny Brice.
Fanny Brice at the
Internet Broadway Database
Internet Broadway Database
Fanny Brice on IMDb
Fanny Brice's television appearance as Baby Snooks
Fanny Brice Collection
Jewish Virtual Library: Fanny Brice
Fanny Brice at Virtual History
Grossman, Barbara Wallace. "Fanny Brice", Jewish Women: A
Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia
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