On Streisand: An Opinionated Guide
She said, I became a singer because I couldn't get work as an actress, but Barbra Streisand not only became both but revolutionized the two professions. Her music transformed the smooth, uninflected style of the Frank Sinatras and Ella Fitzgeralds into an engine of dramatic vocalism in which each song is like a miniature three-act play. And Streisand's films changed forever the ideal of how a movie star chooses roles, going from musicals to dramas to comedies, from period fare to ultra-modern tales, from Funny Girl to The Way We Were to Yentl. mainstream show-business principal to deconstruct an artist On Streisand begins with a broad year-by-year outline of the landmark achievements and a few of her more whimsical escapades, as when Rex Reed apologizes for an oafish interview piece and she responds with I had more respect for him when he hated me. This is followed by a long essay on how Streisand's idiosyncratic self-realization marks her as a unique national treasure, an artist without limits. Then comes the major part of the book, a work-by-work analysis. This section is broken down into separate chapters, each organized chronologically: the stage shows, then the television shows and concerts, then the movies, and last (because longest) the recordings. Throughout, Mordden follows Streisand's independence, which he sees as her central quality. Throughout all of the chapters on Streisand's shows, concerts, films, and recordings, Mordden illustrates how she was exercising individualistic control of her career from her very first audition, and how the rest of her professional life unfolded from that point. pioneered an intense and even passionate singing style at A book written by an opinionated expert whose prose is consistently full of flair and wit, On Streisand: An Opinionated Guide will appeal to general readers in all aspects of American life that Streisand has touched, from film to television to popular music to stardom. Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Further, like Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson she was one of the new wave actors of the 1960s who broke away from the standard models for movie stars. But Streisand has much greater range than others of this kind, as comfortable in musical comedy as in serious drama. Thus, she has moved from the madcap roles of Hello, Dolly! and What's Up, Doc? to the tale of a young woman at war with patriarchal religious fundamentalism (in Yentl) and the insanity hearing of a prostitute who has killed (in self-defense) and whose parents want to put her away to keep her from revealing that her step-father has preyed on her sexually. Further, Streisand has directed three of her films, rare enough for an actor but perhaps especially for a woman. An American Original, Streisand is controversial as well, as all Originals are. Mediocrities may be dull, but they never get bad reviews; Streisand has irritated many a sensibility. As she herself has said, I'm a liberal, opinionated Jewish feminist-I push a lot of buttons. There is as well the I'm so wonderful vanity that has haunted some of her later work, as when she records duets with the rich and famous but isolates herself from them, letting the editing of the tapes bring them together, as if she were an ice princess who might melt upon human contact. Streisand, as her own movie producer, has also been accused of recutting the director's final version to flatter her shots over those of her colleagues. And The Mirror Has Two Faces seems designed to let Streisand direct her own Cinderella tale, not unlike the old Hollywood romances in which the secretary takes off her glasses and the boss cries, Miss Johnson!...Clarice... Why, you're... you're beautiful! Nevertheless, Streisand has been, in all, an invigorating artist, not only unique but extraordinary. It would be impossible to imagine what American culture would have been like without her.