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A Film by Michael Kantor



Barbra Streisand

This multi-talented performer shot to fame when she conquered Broadway with her galvanizing stage presence in the musicals, “I Can Get It for You Wholesale” (1962) and “Funny Girl” (1964), in the latter as the gawky but gifted Fanny Brice. Streisand next powered a number of popular albums (“My Name Is Barbra”) and award-winning TV specials (BARBRA STREISAND: A HAPPENING IN CENTRAL PARK; MY NAME IS BARBRA, which was based on her hit album and won five Emmys) before moving into films. Equally magnetic on the big screen, Streisand patented a brash, loquacious, aggressively optimistic screen persona, starring in musicals before moving on to, and proving herself more than capable in, screwball comedies and romances.

Compensating for her angular, prominent features (which she has often played up self-mockingly in films as her “imperfect” beauty) with unbounded energy and immense talent, Streisand won an Oscar for her first film, William Wyler’s adaptation of FUNNY GIRL (1968), in which she recreated her successful stage role of comedian Fanny Brice. She subsequently turned several mediocre movies into box-office successes, and appeared in such enjoyably old-fashioned films as the farcical WHAT’S UP, DOC? (1972) and the sudsy “The Way We Were” (1973), making her the biggest female box-office star of the 1970s. Part 2″STORY OF A MARRIAGE, PART 2), “1918” (1985) and Off-Broadway in “The Widow Claire” (1986-87).

Shot to fame when she conquered Broadway.
Increasingly criticized for her sometimes megalomaniac tendencies, Streisand responded by noting that healthy ambition in men has often been seen as unattractive pushiness in women. She also branched out into producing (starting with 1976’s A STAR IS BORN) and then directing (beginning with 1983’s YENTL, which she also wrote). She has since produced most of her own occasional film vehicles and continued to enjoy considerable chart success with her albums and show-stopping singles through the early 80s, ranging from the theme songs of THE WAY WE WERE and THE MAIN EVENT, to “Guilty,” “A Woman in Love,” and a disco-flavored duet with Donna Summer, “Enough Is Enough.”

YENTL, the story of a Jewish girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to pursue an education, garnered Streisand generally respectful but mixed reviews from critics. In general they liked her handling of actors and obvious sincerity and attention to detail, but carped at the many indulgent musical monologues and routine visual style.

Sydney Chaplin as Nick Arnstein and Streisand as Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl."

After another producing effort and larger-than-life star performance as a woman on trial who is considered NUTS (1987), Streisand directed a second film, THE PRINCE OF TIDES (1991), based on Pat Conroy’s best-selling novel. Both critical and popular response to Streisand’s sensitive directorial work were notably improved, dismay being largely reserved in some corners for Streisand’s glamorized appearance and performance as a sympathetic psychiatrist. The film received seven Oscar nominations among both acting and technical categories, including one for Best Picture. The lack of a nomination for Streisand as director caused a mild stir in the entertainment community, but she blithely continued with other directorial projects, AIDS and Democratic Party activism, and a very well-received compilation of songs associated with her career.

Barbra Streisand

Born: April 24, 1942
Key Shows
  • "Funny Girl"
  • "I Can Get It for You Wholesale"
Related Artists
  • Marvin Hamlisch
  • Gene Kelly
  • Arthur Laurents
  • David Merrick
  • Jerome Robbins
  • Harold Rome
  • Jule Styne
Nineteen ninety four marked a rare return to live concert singing for Streisand with an incredibly popular multi-city tour which found her charisma and her singing voice both in mint condition. She also produced, directed, and starred in THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES (1996), a remake of a 1958 French film of the same name directed by Andre Cayatte and starring Michele Morgan. The usual stories about Streisand’s perfectionism surrounded the lengthy production, complete with changes of cast and crew. Advance buzz, though, was also generally favorable in its retelling of the story of a plain woman whose marriage is rocked when she undergoes a transformation.

Streisand was formerly married to her “I Can Get It For You Wholeseale” co-star Elliot Gould; their son is actor Jason Gould, who played her son in THE PRINCE OF TIDES.

Source: Excerpted from Baseline. BaselineStudioSystems — A Hollywood Media Corp. Company.

Photo credits: Photofest and the New York Public Library