Look October 1968 cover


October 15, 1968

Barbra - A frantic, brassy, tender Funny Girl

Produced by Ira Mothner

Text by Ira Mothner
Photographs by Steve Schapiro

Hollywood isn't the same since Funny Girl hit town

"I'M THE GREATEST STAR," booms Barbra soon after Funny Girl gets rolling — and there's no fighting it. The big screen can hardly hold her.

As movie tellers back in her native Brooklyn get the picture, "There's this gawky kid, see, and she can't get into the chorus because she isn't very pretty. So, she tells everybody how great she is, which nobody is supposed to know. It's really Barbra Streisand, only she's supposed to be Fanny Brice, who was kind of like Barbra a long time ago. Anyway, she gets onstage, keeps the job and gets famous, marries a louse and gets loused up."

Streisand on roller skates

It all works because Barbra is that cocky and vulnerable, comic valentine of a girl who was "Funny Girl" from the moment the Broadway show opened. "I have a feeling for what's right," Barbra insists, and she had feelings about most things in the film — her first. But she's a quick study. "The only thing she hasn't learned is tact," producer Ray Stark says, and writer Isobel Lennart found work on the movie "a deflating, ego-crushing experience." Yet William Wyler, tyrant director, gave Barbra her head. "Do you understand what I'm saying?" she demanded one day, explaining a camera angle he'd devised 30 years before. Quiet as a banked volcano, Wyler answered, "Say some more."

She crumbled a little, "I talk a lot, don't I?"

The Hollywood hounds gave Barbra a rough time, and she still dwells on the hurtful stories, worries, "They're waiting for me to fail." It's hard to write about her, like trying to find what's behind the Mona Lisa, because she gives an audience everything she is. "You can't fool them," she says, "you can't act something you're not."

Sharif and Streisand

Bright, not cerebral, but concerned, she sang out for Eugene McCarthy and peace in Vietnam. "That's what's going on in me and in the world today." When she's wrong, she owns up: "The Belle of 14th Street special, they can rap me for that one." But when 128,000 people came to see her in Central Park, she was right. If slighted, she squeals, and is down on her Funny Girl boss for lesser prerogatives and a tackier trailer than she later got on the Hello, Dolly! set. "They respect my opinions," she says of the Dolly! team and snipes at Stark for some Funny Girl ads. "They're vulgar."

Her Hollywood fantasies died hard. "I thought they'd make me gorgeous. I always wanted to be pretty." They didn't do it, but her face on the screen "never looked so good eight inches high. Maybe I was never ugly." Not ugly, never pretty, sometimes beautiful, she has, as Isobel Lennart tagged it, "made life a lot better for a helluva lot of homely little girls."

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