Funny Brice is a remarkable musical about comedienne and entertainer Fanny Brice that depicts both her career and her marriage to gambler Nick Arnstein. I liked the movie much more than I expected to - it's mostly remembered for Barbra Streisand's Oscar winning performance and even if her star-making turn is indeed the movie's strongest asset I still thought it was a quite good picture by its own right. The score is wonderful and the songs are all good (the best of them are absolutely great, and even the less memorable ones are still quite catchy), while the cinematography is quite impressive. Both the costume design and the art direction should have received Oscar nominations and, considering how much the Academy liked this movie, I'm surprised they didn't. Less shocking is William Wyler's snub in the Best Director category: while he does a perfectly fine job, it's probably one of his most ordinary efforts, as I never truly felt his own personal touch that can be perceived in many others of his movies. I've read some criticisms about Omar Sharif's performance as Arnstein, but I personally thought he gave a wholly solid performance.
Rose Brice is not a very challenging or demanding role: it's a very by-the-numbers depiction of the supportive, warm mother and in terms of screen-time it's particularly limited (around ten minutes in a two hours and a half long film). Kay Medford certainly brings to the part everything it requires - she is a warm, nice presence and in the early scenes of the movie she does a perfectly respectable job at portraying her unconditional support towards her daughter's ambitions even as many people around her tend to dismiss the latter as too unattractive to have a career in show business. Medford's portrayal is sweet and caring and she also does well in the more humorous side of her performance as she nicely depicts her character's sharp-tongued behavior towards her daughter's detractors, but at the same time there is no denying that what's required from her is next to nothing. To be honest Barbra Streisand is probably the only actor in the movie who is allowed to shine, but even among the supporting players Medford is particularly limited as the screenplay does not really give any attention or focus to Rose. Her appearences are sporadic and whenever she is on-screen she goes out too soon to be able to leave any sort of impression: for example, the moment in which she proudly tells Florenz Ziegfeld how lucky he is to have her daughter among his girls is quite enjoyable but in the span of a few seconds she leaves the screen; or the scene at the party when Rose expresses her few reservations about Nick foreshadowing the eventual decay of Fanny's relationship with him is a fine, smartly placed moment - but, again, it's way too brief and it ends before Medford can leave that much of an impression.
The only moment of Medford's performance that can be described as quite effective is her final scene in which she openly talks to Fanny about Nick and advises her how to help him overcome his weaknesses. It's not a particularly big scene but Medford plays it with subtlety and dignity, portraying Rose with a welcome amount of wisdom and warmth: it's still a pretty brief sequence and it's nothing outstanding, but it's still quite poignant and easily the highlight of Medford's turn here.
Really in the end there is not much one can say about Kay Medford's performance in Funny Girl: she brings the right warmth to the character, her delivery of her sarcastic remarks is enjoyable enough and her final scene is a nice, solid one, but in her ten minutes of screen-time she never becomes anything that is much more than competent and she is not even the best supporting performer of the movie (even if they're very limited by their roles too, I thought Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis were more impressive). It's a performance that never really stands out for the good or the bad - it's just a decent yet unmemorable piece of work that probably got nominated due to the success of the movie rather than the quality of the performance per se.