The Belle of 14th Street (1967)
After two successful television shows on CBS, Barbra's manager, Marty Erlichman told the press, “We don't intend to go to the well once too often. The next special will have other performers. However, Barbra will never become just another hostess for just another musical variety show. Whatever we decide to do in the future shows, she will dominate in a unique fashion.”
Barbra’s third television special for CBS and her sponsor, Monsanto, was The Belle of 14th Street.
In February 1966, shortly after finishing up Color Me Barbra, Streisand and husband Elliott Gould took a second honeymoon in Paris. The trip was financed by her television corporate sponsor, Chemstrand. Barbra told the press, “I’m here to purchase the wardrobe for my next TV special. Cost is no object because my sponsor is picking up the tab.” At that point the theme of her third TV show would be fashion, and Paris offered many couture choices.
(Above: Photographer Bill Eppridge captured Streisand in Paris. Top, with paparazzi snapping her photo; Bottom, with Dior designer Marc Bohan at Maxim's.)
Barbra was seen at a Dior fashion show wearing not the designer’s clothes, but a jaguar suit and hat she had designed herself (pictured below; photographer Richard Avedon sits behind her, in glasses.)
In all, it is said Barbra chose nine Dior outfits at a cost of $150,000.
However, Barbra Streisand's third television special for CBS was postponed.
In March 1966, Barbra flew to London to appear at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Funny Girl. Shortly after beginning her run in London, Barbra announced her pregnancy. Not only did that cause her concert tour to be abbreviated, but Barbra’s television special was postponed as well. Barbra told the BBC in July 1966: “I also can’t do my third television show, which I was supposed to do here [London].”
Returning to the States, Barbra performed four concert dates, and then retired to enjoy the rest of her pregnancy and give birth to her son, Jason, in December 1966.
CBS and Chemstrand wanted a new special by the end of 1967, therefore production on the show picked up momentum in March 1967. (Barbra was due in Hollywood in May to begin shooting the Funny Girl film.)
The format and theme of the television show had changed, too. Instead of centering on fashion, Barbra’s next special would be situated in a 1900’s Vaudeville theater. “We were all determined that the show not be just a variety format,” director Joe Layton said. “We wanted something different. So we hit upon the idea of restaging a vaudeville performance. All the acts, songs, skits and specialties had to be derivative of the period between 1895-1912.”
Barbra’s creative collaborators did meticulous research on Vaudeville — “We even called George Burns in Hollywood and Jack Pearl,” said Barbra’s manager, Marty Erlichman.
Entitled The Belle of 14th Street, the new special would allow Barbra to play several different characters but not have to shoulder the burden of carrying another one-woman show—this time Streisand would be accompanied by guest stars: Broadway actor Jason Robards; Vaudeville veteran John Bubbles; and Lee Allen, who played Eddie in Funny Girl on the stage (and would reprise the role in the film) joined the 14th Street cast.
Below: March 13, 1967 ... Producer Joe Layton weighs tryouts today in New York City for six-girl "beef-trust" chorus line. They'll perform on upcoming Barbra Streisand CBS-TV special.
The opening and closing credits of The Belle of 14th Street featured an animated Streisand in different costumes standing in front of the 14th Street Theatre. These animated graphics were produced in New York by Lew Schwartz and del Sol Productions. Schwartz, a onetime cartoonist (Batman) partnered with del Sol in 1966, translating graphic-design ideas into film.
Joe Layton—Belle's director—had used Schwartz and del Sol for an ill-fated Broadway musical he directed (Clive Rivell in Sherry!) They had produced a short film that was shown during that show. Layton, needing an animated film for the Streisand special, retained the creative film team for Belle.
Rehearsals for Belle
Barbra and cast were photographed during rehearsals at the Ellbar Rehearsal Hall on 6th Avenue, New York, to publicize the show.
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