Rescuers — Stories of Courage (1997-1998)

Streisand's introduction to Rescuers

Barbra Streisand's Barwood films produced for Paramount and Showtime Rescuers: Stories of Courage, six separate stories about the forgotten courage of Christians who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. The first three aired in 1997-1998 (Two Women, Two Couples, and Two Families.)

Barbra filmed a special introduction to the series in which she said, “Every day we hear stories about man's inhumanity to man. However, today I am very proud to present to you a group of films about man's humanity to man.”

The original press release revealed the details behind the scenes:

Barbra Streisand and Cis Corman, president of the director/actress/singer's Barwood Films, have, through Barwood Television, entered into a unique production association with King World Productions Inc. for future longform television ventures, it was announced today by King World Vice Chairman and CEO Michael King.

Barwood made an auspicious entry into the television motion picture field with the Emmy-winning "Serving In Silence: The Magarethe Cammermeyer Story" broadcast on NBC. The company is currently associated with Showtime, CBS and NBC on other projects which will proceed separately from the films entertained in the King World agreement.

"King World is one of the most exciting companies in the entertainment business because it is not bound by conventional rules," Streisand noted. "Their enthusiasm about addressing significant subjects not otherwise explored on television makes this a very attractive partnership, one which hopefully could lead to extension in other areas of entertainment."

"We see King World as a strong, adventurous and supportive partner in the kind of issue-oriented projects Barwood wishes to bring television," Corman stated. "Like our past and current TV undertakings, we hope to utilize the great distribution and development strength of King World to continue to bring to TV viewers subjects of great social urgency."

King declared, "We are very excited to be in business with Barbra Streisand and her company, since they have used her considerable influence and compassionate social involvement to deliver to the public dramatic fare exploring some of the urgent issues of our time, issues whose very controversy has made them rare subjects of TV movies. We hope to help Barwood enlarge the powerful role it can play in making television a more relevant and engaging stage. Needless to say, Barwood's projects always reflect Ms. Streisand's compelling showmanship."

In 2008, Allison Waldman interviewed Jeff Freilich, Executive producer of Rescuers, during a visit to the set of Burn Notice, the USA network show he was executive producing. Below is Allison's interview:

Jeff Freilich in 2008

Waldman: What was it like working with Barbra Streisand?

Jeff Freilich: Barbra was funny. Barbra is a micro-manager. Barbra was good training for going back to television. [laughs].

The first person I hired was Peter Bogdonavich, because I knew Peter knew Barbra from What’s Up Doc? Barbra’s the one who insisted they hire Peter to direct What’s Up Doc. I know that Peter and Barbra had a wonderful relationship. Being with Peter for years, I’d see him talking to Barbra once a week, for years. So when I hired Peter, the first thing I said was, “Ok what do you think I should do with Barbra?” and he said “don’t send her a movie until it’s finished because she will give you notes until you die,” so that’s what I did. I’d hire directors, we’d shoot a movie, we’d cut the picture, I’d deliver the picture, I’d send her a copy and Barbra would send me back a really nice note. She really liked it. Barbra was just really supportive and what I need Barbra for was her name, because we needed credibly. We’d tape an introduction that Barbra did, and she was wonderful. She’s a good person. She’s really a good person and she and I both have the same reason for making Rescuers. We both wanted to die knowing that we’d made at least one thing that had some kind of weight to it, that wasn’t just pure entertainment. For a New York Jew, I won an awful lot of Christian awards that year. [everyone laughs]. I stood at the pulpit at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, from the Archbishop of New York got an award, it was the biggest award. I made a speech that silenced the crowd. Now that you know me, I’ll just talk a blue streak [everyone laughs], but a Catholic audience of about 3000 people. Fortunately, most of the people in the Rescuers stories were Catholic. Rescuers was a series of six films about Christians who did selfless acts of courage during WWII, during the Holocaust, to save the lives of Jews. It took place in France, Belgium, Holland, Hungary, and Germany. Most of the people who did, they happened to be Catholics. That’s one of the reasons for the Christopher award in New York which is a big award. It’s basically the Catholic’s version of a humanities award. And I said that these stories came from Yad Vashem which is a monument in Israel that honors the over 9000 righteous Christians that were identified during WWII as people who did selfless things to save the lives of Jews. And other people who were victimized by the Nazis. I ended that with “Hopefully, God forbid this should ever happen again, there will be more than just 9000.” But it’s true, it was sadly true. And the only person who came up to me and gave me a hug at the end and told me that he was proud that I said that was the guy who won the award for feature films that year, Robert Duvall. Robert Duvall came up and had made a very Christian movie with The Apostle, and he said “it’s so true, but it’s so sad.” And then each priest and the Archbishop said “somebody had to finally say that.” It’s kind of cool, but yeah, she was a pleasure to work with.


Page Credits: Many thanks to Allison Waldman for her interview with Mr. Freilich.