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Entries in Barbra Streisand (10)

Monday
Feb252019

Richard Met Barbra!

Sometimes Oscar night offers a silver lining to those who go home empty handed. Case in point: Richard E. Grant may have not won Best Supporting Actor for Can You Ever Forgive Me? but he did get a prize of sorts that was a lifetime in the making. He finally met Barbra Streisand!

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Wednesday
Oct102018

Soundtracking: "A Star is Born (1976)"

Last week Chris Feil looked back at Judy Garland and A Star is Born's musical beginning. This week, it's Streisand/Kristofferson...

Some viewers have chastised the current remake of A Star is Born’s presentation of pop music, but it kind of pales to the cynicism and condescension to 70s rock and roll in the Streisand/Kristofferson version of 1976. What had previous been told as a saga of the film industry is transplanted into rock arenas, the emptiness of fame represented by a ravenous crowd of thousands acting a fool. Know a little something about Streisand’s skittishness with (sometimes rabid) crowds and you can begin to understand the film’s boorish presentation of fandom, so some grace can be granted. But nevertheless, fame suddenly seems all the more vacuous here in the face of Real Artistry.

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Monday
Feb052018

A Ryan Murphy Political Comedy Quasi-musical?

Chris here. Ryan Murphy is a television titan with American Crime Story: Versace currently drawing high praise and umpteen projects in the pipeline, including a Sarah Paulson-led Nurse Ratched series. This next one already sounds kookier than the rest - Netflix has given a greenlight to The Politician, an hour-long comedic satire.

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Tuesday
Jul112017

Bogdanovich on Filmstruck

by Eric Blume

This month, Filmstruck offers up the one-two-three early 1970s punch of director Peter Bogdanovich.  Can you think of any other filmmaker who made three such incredible pictures within a three-year period, only to fade into a disastrous career afterwards?

1971’s The Last Picture Show holds up incredibly well, and ranks as one of the decade’s finest pictures. This film about various lonely souls who have no clue how to connect still resonates powerfully, partially because Bodganovich is unapologetically “adult” in his handling of these story strands. Nothing feels watered-down or soft, and all the characters have edges that make them specific and interesting. Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman deservedly won supporting Oscars that year for their fine performances, but everyone in the cast delivers beautiful work. There’s a simplicity to the acting, in the best sense: everybody just “is”. Bodganovich has confidence with the material, and he’s passionate about the storytelling. There’s a lingering sadness about the picture that feels distinct in tone, matched perfectly to Larry McMurtry’s original prose and to the characters.

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Wednesday
Nov162016

Judy by the Numbers: "There's No Business Like Show Business"

Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

Sometimes, surprises happen. And sometimes those surprises are planted. I'm referring in this case to both the reappearance of Episode 9 on this series, and the "unplanned" appearance of Ethel Merman on the already-iconic show guest-starring Barbra Streisand. Though Merman's big reveal was first suggested as a way to placate both the surprise guest and her not-so-gracious host. Judy may have originally balked at the idea of her Tea for Two guest skipping the tea for some titanic trilling, but when the producers roped Barbra into the skit as well, it went from a battle of egos to a mammoth moment in musical history.

The Show: The Judy Garland Show Episode 9
The Songwriters: Various, arranged by Mel Torme
The Cast: Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, The Smothers Brothers, surprise guest Ethel Merman directed by Norman Jewison

The Story: So, here's the thing. I've never been a great lover of Ethel Merman. I understand her importance in the musical canon, and some of the shows written for her rank in my Top 5 Favorite Musicals, but the Hostess with the Mostest tends to leave me cold. But even I am swayed by the sheer power of seeing the three greatest American Belting Broads belting out a song together. It's not even a passing of the torch as the Judy/Liza sketch had been. Instead, this feels very much like three old pros - well, two old pros and one new pro - sizing each other up, celebrating what they see, and cooperating. Though Merman would return later for a proper guest spot, nothing would capture the weird wonder of this trio scene. It's improvised, it's lively, and it's unlike anything else on The Judy Garland Show.

Wednesday
Nov092016

Judy by the Numbers: "Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again"

Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

Sometimes, magic happens. When the production team of The Judy Garland Show invited a budding Broadway star to film Episode 9, nobody could foresee the titanic future of the 21-year-old singer. With just one album under her belt - admittedly Billboard Top 10 album - she was perhaps slightly less famous than her co-guest stars, The Smothers Brothers. But when Barbra Streisand sat down to sing a duet with Judy Garland, it was impossible to ignore that something titanic was happening.

The Show: The Judy Garland Show Episode 9
The Songwriters: Various, arranged by Mel Torme
The Cast: Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, The Smothers Brothers, directed by Norman Jewison

The Story: Barbra Streisand was invited on the show just as her star was rising. Already a well-loved New York cabaret singer, Streisand had stopped the show playing a put-upon secretary in her Broadway debut, I Can Get It For You Wholesale. That second-banana-star-turn brought her a Tony nomination and a lot of attention. Jule Styne started working on a musical for her, she recorded an album that charted, and her television dance card filled up as she made the rounds on a rotation of variety shows.

None was quite like The Judy Garland Show, though. Streisand has noted that Judy seemed nervous to perform, but onscreen that nervousness translated as excitement over the chance to share the stage with Streisand - a feeling that Streisand clearly shared. However, once they began singing together, the nervousness melted away. In its place was the musical meeting of giants - two of the greatest belters of the 20th century, singing signature standards together in harmony.

Look, there's a lot I wish I could write about this, but everything I say is going to fall short. Certain moments in music defy description. Aren't we lucky to have witnessed this one?