Left in the Dark (1984)

“Left in the Dark” was Barbra Streisand’s first official music video, made for MTV-generation fans.

From the 1984 Columbia Records press release:

Multi—Platinum-selling Columbia recording artist Barbra Streisand makes her music video debut with "Left In The Dark" from her new EMOTION Lp. Released in mid-October, "Left in The Dark" intertwines rock video elements with the look and narrative qualities of a major theatrical motion picture.

"Left In The Dark," directed by J.S. Kaplan (Rod Stewart's "Infatuation" video, feature films Heart Like A Wheel and White Line Fever) and produced by Teri Schwartz (videos for Bette Midler/Mick Jagger, Elvis Costello, Christine McVie) for Robert Abel Entertainment, features Streisand in multiple roles. The Jim Steinman composition, with its haunting theme of infidelity, juxtaposes Streisand as a lounge singer in an Edward Hopper-type nightclub with a second role as a character in a 50's "film noir" melodrama. Thus the video weaves in and out of several different kinds of realities, exploring various suggestive relationships between characters in the lounge and in the 50's style movie.

The video is further enhanced by the presence of Kris Kristofferson (who starred with Streisand in A Star Is Born) as a bartender/lover and by the striking photography of Donald Thorin (Purple Rain, Officer And A Gentleman). Streisand proves herself to be a natural for the video medium, having amassed tremendous success with such films as Funny Girl, The Way We Were, and Yentl.

Streisand also played an important role in the look of the video, working on the conceptual designs of sets, wardrobe, and props. Explains producer Schwartz, "It was great working with Barbra because she is the ultimate professional. She has extraordinary visual sense and taste. She spent a great deal of time with us, pouring over different designs and elaborate storyboards so we knew exactly how everything was going to look."

Streisand in bed on tiled floor

The video began with a close-up of Barbra in bed as the song’s spoken introduction played over the image (“Where did she touch you? How did it feel? ...”) In the video, Streisand (the lounge singer) watches a love triangle unfold in the nightclub in which she is singing. Her lover (a bartender, played by Kristofferson), his mistress (a waitress), and the lounge singer’s other lover (“the stud”) interact dramatically in the bar while Streisand sings on stage.

Left in the Dark screen captures

Dancer Marcea Lane-Maglia was cast as the waitress. She told an interviewer about how she was cast: “It was all about a look and I was feeling very insecure because they wanted very serious types and I’m more of a happy, smiling person.” After her audition, Marcea had to wait a while before she learned she was cast. “When I came home, there was a message on the machine to call the choreographer. He told me Streisand had picked me herself to be in the video.”

“Left in the Dark” was filmed in three days (September 24-26, 1984) by director Jonathan Kaplan (The Accused and Heart Like a Wheel). “Left in the Dark's” production quality was higher compared to other music videos because Streisand was involved. According to one crew member who worked on the video, “She hires the best people and pays them what they are worth.” There were two major locations: the set for the nightclub was located at Hollywood Center Studios (also known as Zoetrope) in Los Angeles; and the exteriors of Kristofferson’s modern apartment were filmed at 800 Traction in downtown L.A.

Barbra reported for work on September 24th at 9:30am and at 11am began filming the sexy prologue in which she looked directly into the camera. Later that afternoon, Barbra shot her 1950s-styled scenes.

On September 25th, director Kaplan spent the entire day filming on the nightclub set. The film crew used a lot of smoke on set to get a smoky nightclub feel. Because of Barbra’s superstar status, there was a flurry of activity around her, apart from her usual duties as actress: magazine interviews, still photo shoots, plus on-set visits from friends, including Elliott Gould, Jason Gould, Jon Peters, and Richard Baskin. Also, because the 25th was a holy day, the crew was rushing to finish shooting before sundown.

The crew went on location on September 26th and worked until the wee hours of the morning. Kaplan shot Kristofferson and the dancers that evening.

Karis Christensen was cast as “the stud”. In December 2005, 22 years after the music video debuted, Karis spoke about his experience working on the Barbra Streisand music video, “Left in the Dark”.

Matt Howe: How were you cast? Did both Barbra and director Jonathan Kaplan have a say in your casting?

Karis Christensen: I got this kind of wild phone call out of the blue from the choreographer Jerry Evans. Barbra Streisand was doing her first music video, but it was going to be more of a short film, very European. In fact the original plan was to show it in theatres in Europe, and it was going to be kind of cutting-edge and a little risqué. There was a great part for me, a lot of scenes with Barbra, so she was very hands-on and had chosen me personally from my picture and resume. She liked the fact that I had a lot of theatre on my resume, which is pretty rare in LA. I jumped at the chance, of course. The only thing is, no one told me the name of my character so when I got to the set the first day on location, the first thing I hear is a bullhorn booming “THE STUD IS HERE”, then “GET THE STUD TO WARDROBE”, after about an hour I finally get a look at the script: bartender=Kris Kristofferson, lounge singer=Barbra Streisand, cocktail waitress=Marcea Lane, Stud=Karis Christensen ... crazy.

MH: In the video, you sat at the front table by the stage on which Barbra was singing. Did she sing live to the pre-recorded track? Was it like a private concert?

Karis: The bar scene was a very long day. I remember her singing live a few times even though it was not necessary. Every time we took a break, the people who did hair, makeup and wardrobe would rush onto the set and fuss over me. All the time they were saying things like “Oh My God, what is it like to have Barbra Streisand sit in front of you and sing?!!!” They were so excited and I was trying to stay calm and focused because my character is supposed to be using Barbra. So even though at times it was like a private concert, I could not enjoy it. Plus, I had Kris getting into character at the bar behind me, and every once in awhile he would shout something like “Hey! Stud, you better stay up there ‘cause if you come back here to the bar, I am gonna mess you up!”

Streisand sings in music video

MH: That’s you dancing in the spotlight with Marcea Lane when Kris Kristofferson looks out his apartment window—any interesting memories about filming that part of the video?

Karis: That was very challenging. We were dancing on a gravel rooftop, it was midnight, and I was wearing sunglasses. Jonathan Kaplan—that was just an amazing job he did putting that shot together. We were hundreds of yards away from that apartment window but every take that I saw was so perfectly timed and framed, just amazing. Kris gave me one of the best compliments of my life after that shot. He came up to me and said “after our scene at the bar, I thought you were a good actor. I can’t believe you know how to dance, too.”

MH: What are your memories of working with Streisand on “Left in the Dark”?

Karis in Dark video

Karis: So many memories ... Barbra is such a professional and she makes sure she hires people that are the best, and then she lets them do their job. She is so creative; you can just see the wheels turning all the time. Like the scene at the bar—I was surrounded by lights, cameras, props, smoke machines, etc. at my table and I just felt trapped. After a while she figured it out. You could practically read her mind: “This guy’s a dancer, let’s get him on his feet and let him work.” So she said, “Jonathan, I think we should have Karis go back to the bar and have a confrontation scene with Kris. I know it’s not in the script, but let’s try it.”

On a more personal note, the very first day on the set she came up to me put out her hand and said, “You must be Karis. Hi, I’m Barbra.” She was just a warm, sweet person, who, oh yeah, by the way, just happens to be an amazing singer, actress, and comedian. When Marcea and I were rehearsing, Barbra would come and tell us lunch was ready. Not an assistant—Barbra. She made sure we were taken care of in every way. For example, I had just finished working on the road for eight weeks with Jay Leno before “Left in the Dark”. One day on the lot, I came out of my dressing room and there’s Jay. He’s working next door on a TV show. We kind of joked around for a minute then he realized I had a better dressing room than his and I said it’s because I’m working for Barbra. Would he like to meet her? You should have seen the look on his face when I was banging on Barbra’s dressing room door. He wanted to meet her, but I think he was really intimidated at the same time. It was funny, he was really flustered. I think he was worried I would be fired or something. Turns out she was doing some sort of publicity so she wasn’t in.

Streisand on set with private eye hat and cigarette

MH: Was there any sort of nostalgia on the set since Kristofferson and Streisand had not worked together since 1976’s A Star is Born?

Karis: When Kris walked on the set and they saw each other for the first time, it was incredible. It was a kind of quiet moment and yet all the people on the set were kind of holding their breath because they weren’t sure what was going to happen. I think Kris said something like “Hey You”, and you kind of got the feeling that it was a moment he had rehearsed a thousand times but when he saw her, “Hey You” was all he could get out. I remember talking to Kris later and kind of out of the blue he said “You know Barbra is a great lady.” Normally I would think it is kind of sad that celebrities have people witnessing some of their most personal moments, but on the set that day I think it didn’t matter at all to them.

Article about Streisand filming video

“Left in the Dark” Video Credits

Directed by: Jonathan Kaplan

Produced by: Teri Schwartz for Robert Abel Entertainment

Cinematographer: Donald Thorin

Choreographer: Jerry Evans

Lounge Singer: Barbra Streisand

Bartender: Kris Kristofferson

Waitress: Marcea Lane

Stud: Karis Christensen

Barfly: Marion Lovewell

Kristofferson kisses Streisand in video


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