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Fanny Brice



One of the greatest parodists of American pretensions to culture and style, Fanny Brice (born Fanny Borach) emerged from the Jewish musical halls and burlesque houses of New York City, using a learned Yiddish accent, Irving Berlin's song, "Sadie Salome," and an unembarrassed zest wearing ludicrous clothing to become the reigning comedienne of the Ziegfeld Follies, a star of network radio, and a popular featured performer in American movies. Her plain face and ungraceful gestures stood at stark odds with the pulchritude and elegance of the Follies girls, making her always the most plausible and humane presence in Ziegfeld's realm of glory. This humanity would be amplified during those moments when she steered parody to sentiment, or when she performed her signature song, "My Man."

Brice's greatest popularity reigned in the 1930s when she parlayed her obnoxiously obtrusive girl-child persona Baby Snooks into a radio sensation. Snooks' adenoidal whine cut through the static of radio transmission and was instantly identifiable. It was one of the strongest vocal brands of the pre-World War II era.

Married three times, Brice suffered a rocky romantic life, yet her final marriage to Billy Rose kept her at the center of the show business world she loved. She died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 59. David S. Shields/ALS