Oscar Vault Monday – Funny Girl, 1968 (dir. William Wyler)
I’m going to admit this straight up: this is mostly going to be an “I love Barbra Streisand in this movie” post. I’d never been a big fan of Babs until I saw this film and I’ve been converted forever. This was her debut film performance and she won the Best Actress Academy Award for it – in the only tie in that category’s history with Katharine Hepburn in The Lion In Winter. Somehow, though, the Academy decided to give the top prize of the night to Carrol Reed’s overblown, boring and trite musical Oliver! I mean, if they were going to give the top prize one last time to a musical, well until Chicago‘s win 34 years later, why couldn’t they have gone with Funny Girl?! The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and only won the one: Best Actress Barbra Streisand (won), Best Supporting Actress – Kay Medford, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song, Best Score of a Musical Picture (Original or Adaptation), Best Sound and Best Picture. William Wyler wasn’t even nominated for Best Director! The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were: Rachel, Rachel, Romeo and Juliet, The Lion in Winter and winner Oliver!
I have to start my discussion of this film by posting a video of Barbra singing “Don’t Rain On My Parade” – I don’t usually post videos when I talk about a movie, but this is just too important.
I don’t think I can properly describe my love for that scene with words. Everything about it is just perfect. Barbra is just so fresh and amazing and such a natural in front of the camera. It’s no surprise she wowed audiences and the Academy so much that she tied with such a screen legend as Katharine Hepburn. I’ll admit, I’ve yet to see The Lion In Winter, so I can’t really compare the two performances, but knowing Kate it must be amazing.
Barbra does so much in this movie. She’s funny, she’s heartfelt, she’s passionate and in the end she’s deeply moving. This is one of the few performances of which I can say I am truly in awe. She dominates this movie from start to finish and it is so amazing that such a young woman (she was 26) could carry such a large, lush Hollywood musical. Often in musicals you have multiple leads, but I’d say in this one it’s all on Babs and she carries it with gusto.
That’s not to say that Omar Sharif does nothing in the film. He is quite charming as Fanny Brice’s some-time love Nicky Arnstein. In fact, the chemistry between the film’s two stars is incredible. Following roles in such high-profile films as Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia, Sharif was on a career high when this film was released. That being said, Babs sings and dances circles around Sharif. I suppose that’s about right when it comes to plot of the film, but it just adds to how awe-inspiriting Streisand’s performance was.
For me, this film represents the perfect blending of Old Hollywood (the musical) with New Hollywood (Babs) and it will forever be an important before and after marker in the history of cinema. I’m not sure what else to say other than, if you’ve not seen this film you haven’t lived.
If you’re interested in buying this film you can do so here.