No one turned fat into funny better than Sophie Tucker. Even in her biggest hit “Some of These Days,” she sings, “You’re gonna miss your mama, your big fat mama, some of these days.” Perhaps the best example of this is “I Don’t Want to Get Thin,” written by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen in 1929. It was written especially for Sophie for her Warner Brothers movie debut Honky Tonk.
Fanny Brice was born Fania Borach in New York City to a pair of Jewish saloon owners. She dropped out of school to work in a burlesque review when she was seventeen and a mere two years later she was headlining the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910 and 1911. She was a staple of the follies every year from 1921 into the 1930s. She recorded nearly two dozen records and is a posthumous recipient of a Grammy Hall of Fame award for her 1921 hit, “My Man.”
Thirteen years after Fanny died, she was portrayed on Broadway by Barbra Streisand in the 1964 musical Funny Girl as well as in its 1968 film adaptation. Both took some liberties with Fanny’s life, particularly when it came to her husband Nicky Arnstein. In reality, Nicky was a mooch. He was eventually named as member of a gang that stole five million dollars in Wall Street securities.