Saturday, August 20, 2016

Barbra Streisand Oscar History

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".
What made her Oscar triumph moment so exciting was that two Oscars were awarded.  Streisand, a Hollywood newcomer, tied for Best Actress with veteran Hollywood icon, Katharine Hepburn.  As usual, Hepburn did not attend the awards when she was nominated.  She was nominated 12 times.  Hepburn won four Oscars for Best Actress.  So far, that's record number of wins for one woman in the Best Actress category.

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.




This too was a Broadway hit and the material was adapted to fit Streisand's comic strengths.  The original play starred the late and extremely gifted African American actress, Diana Sands, and Alan Alda.  This was a golden example of Broadway diversity.  The role of Doris was not written specifically for a black actress.  Sands, who was in the original cast of Broadway's landmark drama, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, got the role because she was right for the part.



 In the early 1970s, the versatile Sands succumbed to cancer.


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.
The second Oscar that Barbra Streisand won came in the music category.  She co-wrote "Evergreen," the hit song she introduced in the 1976 rock music remake of A STAR IS BORN in which she starred opposite Kris Kristofferson.

Barbra Streisand got an Oscar nomination as producer when 1991's THE PRINCE OF TIDES was nominated for Best Picture.

With the musical, YENTL, Streisand was able to reach for something in the space opened when top Hollywood actress Ida Lupino shattered a glass ceiling in the early 1950s.  Lupino used camera wheels as wagon wheels to ride like a pioneer into the Hollywood Boys Club of directors and stake a claim. Barbra Streisand was another film actress who took hold of the camera as a film director.  She directed 1983's YENTL.  She co-produced and solely directed 1991's THE PRINCE OF TIDES.  She took on the lead female role in the film and she took charge behind the camera.  The movie got 7 Oscar nominations.  But she's never been nominated for Best Director.

Nick Nolte was a Best Actor Oscar nominee and Kate Nelligan was a Best Supporting Actress nominee for THE THE PRINCE OF TIDES, Amy Irving was a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for YENTL and Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall was  Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES, a 1996 film starring and directed by Barbra Streisand. Bacall, a star since the 1940s, received her first and only Oscar nomination thanks to Streisand's film.

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.
The stage, screen and recording star talked to Scott Simon about her current concert tour and her new CD.  To hear the interview, find "The Enduring Fabulousness of Barbra Streisand" after you click onto NPR.org.

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