A note

I worry about this generation sometimes. I really do. I’m afraid we live in an America where the greatness of Barbra Streisand is not fully understood or fully appreciated. There are people my age and younger who only know her as Ben Stiller’s ultra-Jewish mother-in-law in Meet the Parents or as the woman that Rachel from Glee keeps going on about. This worries me, because Barbra Streisand  is the second greatest popular music vocalist of our time.* (The first, if you’re curious is, Aretha Franklin.) Do you know that Barbra Stresiand is the best-selling female vocalist ever? Did you know that?  Forget Yentl. Forget Ordinary People, that overrated piece of schmaltz, forget A Star is Born. Forget the EGOT.

Just start with the voice.

Watch this. I know it’s obvious, but it’s the best demonstration of Barbra’s breathtaking agility. 


Did you hear what she did at 0:25, the way her voice, for lack of a better term, brays like a trumpet?  Then there’s the way her voice just coos, like silk, all dulcet tones.  When people say the voice is like an instrument, they’re talking about Babs. It’s amazing what she can make her voice do. The uniqueness of it, the myriad expressions it can embody: brash and sexy and impudent and funny and vulnerable–in a matter of minutes, it’s amazing.

So there’s the voice and then there’s Funny Girl, which I’ve just decided is the second best movie musical ever. (The first being Singin’ in the Rain, if you’re curious.) Funny Girl is a kinda biopic of ’20s Ziegfield Follies sensation Fanny Brice. It is also, really, actually a love story between Fanny Brice and her second husband Nick Arnstein. It is also very wonderful.

There are three things that make Funny Girl work:

1)  Barbra Streisand

2) Omar Sharif

3) Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif

The first time I watched Funny Girl, one night back when we had Turner Classic Movies, I was mesmerized by Omar Sharif’s eyes. Years later, the plot of the movie would go hazy, but I will always remember his eyes. So warm, so brown. He’s so right for this film. It’s weird, he shouldn’t be. His accent makes his words stilted, expression can be lost.   But then he smiles and stares at you with those light, maple-syrup-colored-after-it’s-just-been-heated eyes and you just get it.

He and Streisand had a four month affair during the making of the film, and you can tell. The chemistry is palpable.  And Barbra Streisand is gorgeous. Apparently she was really tyrannical about the lighting during the film but her tyranny paid off because she literally glows. Her skin radiates dew. Her eyes are a gorgeous blue.

And she’s frigging hilarious.

Also random tidibit that I love about this film and may also be a spoiler: Money screws them over. Money the most realistic, yet rarely depicted breaker-upper of relationships.

You really must watch this film. And love Barbra.

*subject to sudden change due to the capriciousness of the author


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