Barbra Streisand is an American singer, actress, director and producer and one of the most successful personalities in show business. She is the only person ever to receive all of the following: Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Golden Globe, Cable Ace, National Endowment for the Arts, and Peabody awards, as well as the American Film Institutes Lifetime Achievement honor and the Film Society of Lincoln Center Chaplin Award.
She was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1942 to Diana (née Ida Rosen), a singer turned school secretary, and Emanuel Streisand, a high school teacher. Her father was of Galician (Polish) Jewish descent and her mother was of Russian Jewish ancestry. As a child she attended the Beis Yakov Jewish School in Brooklyn. She was raised in a middle-class family and grew up dreaming of becoming an actress (or even an actress / conductor, as she happily described her teenage years at one of her concerts).
After a period as a nightclub singer and off-Broadway performer in New York City she began to attract interest and a fan base, thanks to her original and powerful vocal talent. She debuted on Broadway in the 1962 musical comedy “I Can Get It For You Wholesale” by Harold Rome, receiving a Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and a New York Drama Critics Poll award. The following year she reached great commercial success with her first Columbia Records solo releases, “The Barbra Streisand Album” (multiple Grammy winner, including “Best Album of the Year”) and “The Second Barbra Streisand Album” (her first RIAA Gold Album); these albums, mostly devoted to composer Harold Arlen, brought her critical praise and, most of all, public acclaim all over the US. In 1964 she continued ha another smash Broadway hit when she portrayed legendary Broadway star Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill; the show’s main song, “People”. became her first hit and she appeared on the cover of “Time” magazine. After many TV appearances as guest on various music and variety shows (such as an episode of The Judy Garland Show (1963), for which she was nominated for 1963 Emmy), she signed an exclusive contract with CBS for a series of annual TV specials : My Name Is Barbra (1965) (which won an Emmy) and Color Me Barbra (1966) her first work in color were extremely successful.
After a brief London stage period and the birth of her son Jason Gould (with then-husband Elliott Gould), in summer 1967 she gave a memorable free concert in New York City, “A Happening in Central Park”, that was filmed and later broadcast (in an edited version) as a TV special; then she flew to Hollywood for her first movie, Funny Girl (1968), a filming of her stage success. The picture, directed by William Wyler, opened in 1968 and became a hit in the US and abroad, making her an international “superstar’ and multiple award winner, including an Oscar (her first) as Best Actress. After a series of screen musicals, such as Gene Kelly’s Hello, Dolly! (1969) and Vincente Minnelli’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970), she wanted to try comedies, resulting in such films as The Owl and the Pussycat (1970) and What’s Up, Doc? (1972). She turned to dramas and turned out Up the Sandbox (1972) and the classic The Way We Were (1973), directed by Sydney Pollack and co-starring Robert Redford, in which she gave what many consider to be her finest performance. The song “The Way We Were” (written by Marvin Hamlisch and Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman) became one of her biggest hits and most memorable and famous songs.
She returned to TV for a new special conceived as a musical journey covering many world musical styles, Barbra Streisand and Other Musical Instruments (1973), then returned (for contractual reasons) to her Fanny Brice role in a sequel to her hit “Funny Girl film, Funny Lady (1975), and the next year turned out one of her most personal film projects, A Star Is Born (1976), one of the biggest hits of the year for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress and her second Oscar, for the song “Evergreen”. Always extremely busy on the discography side, averaging one album a year throughout the ’70s and ’80s, she had a string of successful singles and albums, such as “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” (duet with ‘Neil Diamond’), “Enough is Enough” (with Donna Summer), “The Main Event” (from her film The Main Event (1979) with her friend Ryan O’Neal) and the album “Guilty”, written for her by The Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb, which sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
She debuted as a director with the musical drama Yentl (1983), in which she also portrayed a Jewish girl who is forced to pass herself off as a man to pursue her dreams. The movie received generally positive reviews and the beautiful score by Michel Legrand and lyricists Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman stands up as one of Streisand’s finest musical works. The film received several Oscar nominations, winning in two categories, but she was not nominated as Best Director, which disappointed both her and her fans, many of whom consider this the Academy’s biggest “snub”.
In 1985 her album “The Broadway Album was an unexpected runaway success, winning a Grammy Award and helping to introduce a new generation to the world of American musical theater. In 1986 she performed in a memorable concert, after 20 years of stage silence, “One Voice” (1986). She returned to the screen in the Nuts (1987), a drama directed by Martin Ritt, in the role of a prostitute accused of murder who fights to avoid being labeled “insane” at her trial. In 1991 she appeared in The Prince of Tides (1991), which many consider to be the pinnacle of her screen career, playing a psychiatrist who tries to help a man (Nick Nolte) to find the pieces of his past life: the film received seven Oscar nominations (but again NOT for Best Directing), but she did receive a nomination from the DGA (Directors Guild of America) for Best Director. In 1994 she returned to the stage after 27 years for a series of sold-out concerts (for the televised version of one of these, she won another Emmy).
In the 1990s she broke several personal records: with two #1 albums (“Back to Broadway” in 1993 and “Higher Ground” in 1997) and became the only artist to achieve a #1 album on the Billboard charts in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (she extended this record into the 21st century in 2009 with the jazz album “Love is the Answer”). In 1996 she starred in her third and last picture as director, The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), with Jeff Bridges and Lauren Bacall. The film had a “the girl got the guy” ending, and the same happened to her in real life–the next year she married well known TV actor James Brolin.
In 2000 she focused her career again on concerts (“Timeless”) and in 2006-07 with a European tour. She made only two more films–a supporting role as a sex therapist mother in the Ben Stiller comedy Meet the Fockers (2004) and its sequel, Little Fockers (2010), alongside Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro. She published a book, “Passion for Design”, in 2010 and celebrated her friendship with the Bergmans with an entire album of their songs, “What Matters Most” (2011), that debuted in the top 10.
After a long break from filming, she returned in a starring role for the 2012 holiday season with The Guilt Trip (2012), a mother/son picture co-starring Seth Rogen and directed by Anne Fletcher, and is working on putting together a film version of the well-known Jule Styne musical “Gypsy”. In almost 50 years of career, Streisand has contributed to the show business industry in a personal and unique way, collecting a multi-generational fan base; she has a powerful and recognize vocal range, and a raucous and often self-deprecating sense of humor, which doesn’t prevent her from showing the serious and dramatic sides of her personality. Her strong political belief in social justice infuses her professional career and personal life, and she makes no bones about what she believes; her willingness to put her money where her mouth is has resulted in some truly vicious attacks by many who hold opposite political views, but that hasn’t stopped her from acting on her beliefs. She has been honored with the Humanitarian Award from the Human Rights Campaign, an Honorary Doctorate in Arts and Humanities from Brandeis University in 1995, an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2013 and the bestowing by the government of France the title of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters. She supports many humanitarian causes through the Streisand Foundation and has been a dedicated environmentalist for many years; she endowed a chair in environmental studies in 1987 and donated her 24-acre estate to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. In addition, she was the lead founder for the Clinton Climate Change Initiative. This effort brought together a consortium of major cities around the world to drive down greenhouse gas emissions. She is a leading spokesperson and fund-raiser for social and political causes close to her heart and has often dedicated proceeds from her live concert performances to benefit programs she supports.
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