The Owl and the Pussycat
Opened November 20, 1970
Barbra’s second film under her contract with producer Ray Stark was The Owl and the Pussycat. A non-musical about a prostitute which featured saucy dialogue and nudity, the film was a big risk for Streisand who’d already starred in three family-oriented, rated-G musicals.
The Owl and the Pussycat began as a Broadway show during the 1964-65 season. It starred Alan Alda (M*A*S*H*) and Diana Sands. Sands had actually shared the stage with Streisand when they both appeared in Another Evening With Harry Stoones off-Broadway in 1961.
It was announced at Columbia's stockholder's meeting on December 16, 1968 that Ray Stark had hired Herb Ross to direct The Owl and the Pussycat. Although a male lead wasn't chosen at that point, Variety speculated that Barbra's husband, Elliott Gould, may have considered the role.
Ray Stark looked at several leading men to play opposite Streisand. David Hemmings (Barbarella, Camelot, Blowup) was considered for the role of Felix, as was Sidney Poitier—which would have reversed the race element that was already in the Broadway show (instead of an African-American Doris, Felix would be played by Poitier).
George Segal was announced as Barbra's costar in July 1969.
Asked by a columnist if she would be singing in The Owl and the Pussycat, Streisand retorted, “How many singing prostitutes do you know?” To another journalist she said, “It’s not Medea, so what’s the big deal? I’d feel more apprehensive if I were going to play Juliet or Hamlet, which I always wanted to do.”
Screenwriter Buck Henry praised Streisand’s contradictory personality when he said, “She’s very tough and very sentimental at the same time, which is something she’s used in films very well.”
Reportedly, Martin Charnin was commissioned to write a song for the film. Streisand stuck to her guns and did not sing—even a song over the credits— in Pussycat. However, Streisand eventually recorded Charnin's "The Best Thing You've Ever Done" and released it on her studio album, The Way We Were, in 1974.
The Soundtrack Album
Columbia Records, Streisand's recording label, did release a soundtrack album for The Owl and the Pussycat which contained instrumentals and songs by the rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears, as well as actual dialogue by Streisand and Segal from the film's soundtrack. The Owl and the Pussycat soundtrack album is out of print. It is the only Streisand album released by Columbia Records which is not available on CD. However, it’s a moot point, due to the existence of VHS tapes and DVDs. (In the 1970’s, when the album was released, consumers were not able to own video versions of their favorite films, so this album, with dialogue, was the only way to relive the film experience.)
In 2013, Blood, Sweat & Tears released an album called Rare Rarer & Rarest. On it (along with some other tracks from the band) they included all of their instrumental compositions for The Owl and the Pussycat, including some unreleased tracks. These tracks do not include the Streisand and Segal dialogue which was on the original soundtrack album.
|10. The Confrontation (Instrumental Interlude - Part 1)|
|11. The Confrontation (Instrumental Interlude - Part 2)|
|12. The Warmup (Instrumental Interlude - Part 1)|
|13. The Warmup (Instrumental Interlude - Part 2)|
|14. The Seduction (Instrumental Interlude - Part 1)|
|15. The Seduction (Instrumental Interlude - Part 2)|
|16. The Morning After (Instrumental Interlude - Part 1)|
|17. The Morning After (Instrumental Interlude - Part 2)|
|18. The Morning After (Instrumental Interlude - Part 3)|
|19. The Reunion (Instrumental Interlude - Part 1)|
|20. The Reunion (Instrumental Interlude - Part 2)|
|21. Just Want To Mention (You've Been Alone Too Long)|
|22. The Owl and the Pussycat (Instrumental Interlude - Outtake 1)|
|23. The Owl and the Pussycat (Instrumental Interlude - Outtake 2)|
|24. The Owl and the Pussycat (Instrumental Interlude - Outtake 3)|
|25. The Owl and the Pussycat (Instrumental Interlude - Outtake 4)|
Filming in New York began in September 1969.
Between scenes, Streisand studied painting and wore plastic gloves to protect her manicure. Because Streisand liked the work of modern painter Frank Stella, Ray Stark gave her a smock with “Streisella” stitched in it.
Director Herbert Ross had a photographer snap photos of New York prostitutes to get an idea for hairstyles and dress for Streisand’s prostitute character. Ross, a Broadway choreographer, came up with the bumps and grinds that Doris performs in the film.
Regarding her first nude scene, Streisand told one reporter, “The producer and the director are both pleading with me to put it back in the film, but I won’t. I did the scene on condition that it wouldn’t be used without my approval, and I didn’t like it. It’s out and it stays out.” The scene, according to Streisand, “spoils the comedy of the next scene.”
Another scene in the film which was spoiled, according to Ross as he told author Robert J. Emery, was “the scene where George and Barbra are stoned in the bathtub—they insisted on getting stoned in order to play the scene, and of course it was hopeless and we had to do it again when they were slightly straighter. But that was the time, you know.”
Barbra’s favorite cinematographer, Harry Stradling, passed away during the filming of The Owl and the Pussycat. Andrew Laszlo completed the picture.
The Owl and the Pussycat wrapped production mid-January 1970.
Click the Play button below to hear a 1970 radio promo for The Owl and the Pusscyat.
A featurette was produced that included location/production footage, film clips, and onscreen interviews with writer Buck Henry and producer Ray Stark. Titled On Location with The Owl and the Pussycat, its running time was 6:05 minutes. Barbra Archives has edited together some of the footage below (right-click and uncheck "Play" to stop the video):
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