I did not have to beg my mother to let me stay up late on a Sunday night before a school day so I could watch a Barbra Streisand special on CBS. Why? Because Mom would be sitting right there with me. Barbra Streisand albums were in The Rivers Family record collection in our South Central L.A. home. So, I have been a major Barbra Streisand fan for over half my life. I listened to NPR host Scott Simon interview the truly multi-talented entertainer on Saturday's Weekend Edition. In classic Hollywood terms, she's a powerhouse entertainer but not a "triple threat." Barbra can sing and she can act. But, unlike Judy Garland and Doris Day, her dancing left a little something to be desired. A minor point when you consider the other achievements in her long, spectacular career -- especially on film. In one very exciting night at the Academy Awards, she won a Best Actress Oscar for 1968's FUNNY GIRL the hit film adaptation of the Broadway musical that made her a new star. The Broadway show gave her two of what would become her signature tunes -- "Don't Rain On My Parade" and "People".
Her first three films were "big voice" musicals. There was FUNNY GIRL. Then we moviegoers saw the film version of another Broadway hit. Although too young for the lead role in HELLO, DOLLY!, casting her in the role made good Hollywood box office sense. She was the hot new star. What other American female singing star who had wowed the public with her records and network TV specials had that kind of voice? Its glistening softness melted your heart and then it could soar and hit the heights like a sonic boom. Proof? Wait for her final note in her rendition of "Before The Parade Passes By" in HELLO, DOLLY! Vincente Minnelli's ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER was another film based on a hit Broadway musical comedy. Then Streisand showed you that she didn't need songs to stand out in a role. She established her own style of screen comedy as the motor-mouthed, pushy but ultimately lovable hooker in 1970's THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT. Doris considers herself to be a "model and an actress" -- not a hooker.
After I listened to Scott's enlightening interview, I thought about the Oscar history Barbra Streisand went on to make. Her sharp, smart dramatic work as the social activist in 1973's THE WAY WE WERE earned her another Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
I think that is Oscar history right there. Has any woman directed more actors to Oscar nominations for their performances than director Barbra Streisand? I don't think so. Yet, I never hear that mentioned in intros of her nor to do I recall reading it in print items about her. She won an Oscar for Best Actress, she won another Oscar for co-writing the Best Song, she produced and directed an Oscar nominee for Best Picture and she's directed four actors to Oscar nominations for their performances.
It's Oscar history worth noting for Women In Film. Ida Lupino would be so proud of her.