Comedienne Sensation Wants Own Way in Movies—Gets it
July 26, 1962
By Jack Gaver
This might be the quickest way of conveying an idea as to what Barbra Streisand, 20-year-old comedienne sensation of I Can Get it For You Wholesale is like.
“I bought a nightgown the other day," said the slim, brown-haired singing actress. “Cotton. It was cut lower in the back than in the front, so I turned it around and wore it backwards. Gave me an empire bustline—you know, like in Napoleon's time.
“Well, it was so pretty that I couldn't resist wearing it where people could see it. I went right out with it on as though it were a blouse. It attracted attention. Somebody remarked that it looked like a nightgown. I said that it was."
In short, Miss Streisand is an "original," a "natural," a person who knows what she likes, satisfies her whims if she can afford them and doesn't care what others may think.
"I want to be a good actress and become famous," she said, "But I'm lazy and not very disciplined. That's one reason I'm glad I'm in this musical—you have to learn discipline in the theater.
"I know that when I was rehearsing in the play, I gave the director a bad time. He insisted on blueprinting exactly how I should do everything. I can't work that way, I have to work slowly into a part; sort of play it by ear. I find it very difficult to do anything twice in exactly the same way. But I'm learning."
Miss Streisand attributes the seemingly haphazard conduct of her brief career not only to laziness but also to an inability to regard any particular job as a life or death matter.
"I know it sounds pretty silly of me," she said. "There I was with my first chance in a Broadway show and a good part that I really liked. And I can't afford idleness. But the reason I talked back to the director was that I sincerely felt I'd be better off walking out on it if I couldn't work into the character in my own way. I just didn't care what happened. I could go out and work in a night club again."
NIGHT CLUB START
That was where Miss Streisand got her start a year or so ago—in an intimate spot here called Bon Soir—shortly after she got out of Erasmus High School in Brooklyn. That's her home town, no matter what it says in the biographical sketch of her in the back of the programs for "I Can Get It For You Wholesale.” She persuades the press department to have that changed from time to time. Sometimes she's listed as born in Madagascar or Algeria or whatever foreign name might strike her fancy.
The night club career—she started an after-theater engagement at the Blue Angel this week—was just about as accidental as such things can be.
"I never studied singing," she said, "I was studying acting and had done a little summer stock work. But I liked certain songs I'd hear on records, and one night I got up in a little bar and won a talent contest with a song. It just seems that the right sounds come out of me in the right way.
"Then a friend recommended for the Bon Soir people to hear me, and I was hired. I went in there—can you believe it?—without an act. The accompanist was a friend and a fine musician, and somehow I got across just singing some old standard numbers that I liked.
"I worked a few clubs in other cities, but most of the time I wasn't working and was broke. Then I got some television appearances—twice with Jack Paar and a dozen times or so with Mike Wallace on the 'PM East' program—and people got to know my work. Then I was called to try out for this show, and that's it."
Whatever it is that Miss Streisand has developed in her haphazard way, it is enough to make her a prime candidate, along with two established stars, for the role of Fanny Brice in a musical about that great star scheduled for next fall. She may not get it, but to achieve such recognition in such a short time is phenomenal.