YouTube – Barbra Streisand – Woman in Love


Encyclopædia Britannica

Original name Barbara Joan Streisand

Born April 24, 1942, Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.

American singer, composer, actress, director, and producer. She is considered by many to be the greatest popular singer of her generation. The first major female star to command roles as a Jewish actress, Streisand redefined female stardom in the 1960s and ’70s with her sensitive portrayal of ethnic urban characters. Her immense popularity matched only by her outspokenness, she became one of the most powerful women in show business, noted for her liberal politics and her philanthropy.

Initially aspiring to be a dramatic actress, Streisand joined a summer theatre group in Malden Bridge, New York, and began studying acting while still in high school. After graduation she moved to Manhattan, where her first break came in 1960 when she sang at a small local nightclub and won an amateur talent contest (and dropped the second a from her first name). Following singing engagements in Greenwich Village cabarets, she landed a small comic role as Miss Marmelstein in the Broadway musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1962) and stole the show. An immediate sensation, she made frequent television appearances, notably on The Judy Garland Show, and, beginning in 1963, released a series of best-selling record albums that featured vibrant and original interpretations of popular songs. Her first solo album, The Barbra Streisand Album, won Grammy Awards for album of the year and best female vocal performance—the first two of many.

Streisand established herself as a major Broadway star in the career-making role of Fanny Brice in the musical Funny Girl (1964). In 1965 she won two Emmy Awards for My Name Is Barbra, the first of a series of tremendously successful television specials. She made her movie debut in 1968 in an Academy Award-winning reprise of her role as Fanny Brice. Although Funny Girl portrays Brice’s life, not Streisand’s, it established many enduring elements of Streisand’s screen image, including her transition from an awkward ugly duckling to a stylish, sophisticated star, her Jewish origins, and her persistence and determination. Her self-deprecating opening line (“Hello, gorgeous,” said into a mirror) and her first solo number (“I’m the Greatest Star”) underscored the fact that Streisand had succeeded despite widespread early opinion that her unconventional looks would keep her from becoming a major movie star.

Streisand starred in several film musicals in the 1960s and ’70s, including Funny Lady (1975), the sequel to Funny Girl, as well as Hello, Dolly! (1969), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970), and A Star Is Born (1976). She played screwball heroines in such comedies as The Owl and the Pussycat (1970) and What’s Up, Doc? (1972) and the romantic lead in the enormously popular The Way We Were (1973). She made her directorial debut in 1983 with Yentl, based on a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer about a young woman who pretends to be a man in order to continue her studies. Streisand starred in the title role—which she had wanted to play since 1968—as well as cowriting and coproducing the movie. In her later films she played mostly straight dramatic roles, as in Nuts (1987), The Prince of Tides (1991), and The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996); the last two she also directed. In 2004, however, she appeared with Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman in the popular comedy Meet the Fockers. Despite the seeming variety, most of Streisand’s characters share the qualities of strength and fierce independence combined with vulnerability.

Although admired as a filmmaker, Streisand has perhaps inspired even greater devotion from her fans as a singer. In addition to the albums featuring the sound tracks from her films and television specials, her most popular recordings include The Barbra Streisand Album (1963), The Second Barbra Streisand Album (1963), The Third Album (1964), People (1964), Je m’appelle Barbra (1966), Stoney End (1971), Streisand Superman (1977), Guilty (1980), The Broadway Album (1985), and Back to Broadway (1993). She avoided performing live for several years, but in the 1990s she appeared in a series of live concerts that broke box office sales records. Her numerous accolades include a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement (1995) and the French Legion of Honour (2007).


Additional Reading

Biographies include Randall Riese, Her Name Is Barbra (1993); James Spada, Streisand: Her Life (1995); and Anne Edwards, Streisand (1997).


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Supplemental Information



All About Oscar

Academy Awards

1968: Best Actress

Katharine Hepburn as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter ,
Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl

Other Nominees

  • Patricia Neal as Nettie Cleary in The Subject Was Roses
  • Vanessa Redgrave as Isadora Duncan in Isadora
  • Joanne Woodward as Rachel Cameron in Rachel, Rachel

Two actresses tied for the top prize, only the second tie in Oscar history.

Hepburn’s Oscar was her third Academy Award and her second in as many years, making her the actress with the most Oscars and the first back-to-back winner since Luise Rainer in 1936 and 1937. Her shrewd Eleanor of Aquitaine has been banished by her husband, Henry II (Peter O’Toole, who also played Henry II in Becket in 1964 and earned Oscar nominations for both performances), and, when the two are reunited in order to determine Henry’s successor, verbal battles ensue. Hepburn’s eloquence and fire are on full display in this adaptation of James Goldman’s play.

Katharine Hepburn (b. May 12, 1907, Hartford, Conn., U.S.—d. June 29, 2003, Old Saybrook, Conn.)

Streisand won her best actress Oscar for her movie debut at the relatively young age of 26; at that time she was already well established in the entertainment industry as a stage and recording star. Real-life vaudeville star Fanny Brice was a role that Streisand was comfortable with, having played her onstage to glowing reviews in London and on Broadway (it was a role she would play again, in the movie-only sequel Funny Lady in 1975). The film’s story recounts Brice’s rise to fame in the Ziegfeld Follies and her rocky romance with gambler and ne’er-do-well Nicky Arnstein (Omar Sharif). There was probably no other actress who could have played the part so perfectly, but Streisand was hardly typecast by her performance, and in the 1970s she became one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood.

Barbra Streisand (b. April 24, 1942, Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.)


Other Britannica Sites

Articles from Britannica encyclopedias for elementary and high school students.

Barbra Streisand – Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up)

(born 1942). "The most fascinating young female singer to come along since Judy Garland first sang ’Over the Rainbow’" is how Barbra Streisand was reviewed after appearing at the Coconut Grove in Hollywood in 1963. She captivated audiences with the pure, clear, emotional, and dynamic quality of her singing.

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