Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Funny Girl


Barbra Streisand was already a singing star when she reached Broadway with a small part in I Can Get It For You Wholesale. I had thought she then became a big Broadway star … and she was, in the sense that her next appearance was this smash hit. But those were her only two Broadway appearances, she was not a queen of the Great White Way like Ethel Merman or Carol Channing. Barbra quickly moved on to where the real money was: Television and the movies. Nothing wrong with that. In Hollywood, after making this film, she specialized for a time in stealing lead roles other women had created on Broadway—Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly!, and Barbara Harris in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. And that was the extent of her involvement with Broadway. I didn’t know that. And she’s only made three other real musicals since: Funny Lady, A Star is Born, and Yentl. Sort of a shame, I feel, for one of the greatest singing voices of all time. Oh, well, we Streisand fans have a lot of records to listen to. She won the Academy Award for this (with Katherine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter, one of the very few ties in Oscar history), and I think she deserved it. It’s her best musical. I looked into the real story of Fanny Brice a little bit, and was not surprised to find they did some major tweaking of her life, mostly concerning her relationship with Nicky Arnstein, who wasn’t the gentleman gambler portrayed here by Omar Sharif. He was involved with Arnold Rothstein, a certifiable scumbag, the man who fixed the 1919 Black Sox World Series. He was in jail not once but twice, in some of your more famous pens: Sing Sing, where Fanny visited him every week, and Leavenworth. He was already married when he and Fanny began their affair. They lived together for six years before getting married. He didn’t heroically plead guilty to the second charge, when he was married to Fanny. She bankrolled his defense. Oh, well, nobody ever expected these things to be historical fact.