Streisand: First and Only Best Director Winner at 1984 Golden Globes

Barbra Streisand Reflects on Making History as the First–and Only–Female to Win Best Director at the Golden Globes


Barbra Streisand with the two Golden Globes she won, one for Best Director (Musical or Comedy) and one for Best Actress (Musical or Comedy), in Yentl. Streisand also directed the film. Los Angeles, 1984.
Bettmann Archive/GettyImages

While this year’s Golden Globe director nominees include an unprecedented three women — Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), Regina King (One Night in Miami) and Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) — in 1984, Barbra Streisand was an anomaly.

That night she became the first — and to this day, only — woman to win that Globe, for Yentl.

The musical saw Streisand playing a young Jewish woman in 1904 Poland who masquerades as a man to study in a yeshiva, where she falls for another student (Mandy Patinkin).

In accepting the directing award, Streisand said, “I’m very proud because it also represents, I hope, new opportunities for so many talented women to try to make their dreams become realities, as I did.”

The remarks drew warm applause. But how well has the movie business fared for women in the four decades since? Streisand, 78, looked back at the night she made Hollywood history.

Memories of the night of winning?

I was totally shocked and couldn’t believe it when they announced my name as best director. It was an incredibly thrilling moment for me. And deeply meaningful, because I had been trying to make this movie for 15 years. There was so much controversy around it. People had made such a big deal about an actress who tried to do more than one job. I was doubly surprised when they told me in the press room that I was the first woman to get this award.

Then to sit down and be called up again when Yentl won best picture comedy or musical was overwhelming. When I got home that night, I couldn’t sleep from sheer excitement. Of course, eating a pint of coffee ice cream probably didn’t help.

Hollywood Progress? 

Very slowly. I’ve always thought women are intrinsically powerful. And some men still don’t want the competition. Thirty-seven years ago, the industry was mostly run by men. Directors were mostly men.

It’s taken years for women to accept their own power and say, “I can do this!” Initially, I was looking for someone else to direct Yentl, until I realized that none of the men I approached had as strong a vision of this movie as I did. So I took the chance.

It’s only recently, with the #MeToo movement, that women have come together in strength to support each other. And that makes a huge difference.

This year, a record three women have been nominated for director of a motion picture. 

I love it. I never thought I’d see the day when three out of five nominated directors would be women. It brings a huge smile to my face.

There were wonderful movies in the last few years directed by women. Queen & SlimLittle WomenMudboundWonder WomanThe Nightingale. And they were all overlooked. So it’s really gratifying to see these three very distinctive films made by incredibly talented women nominated.

l think there’s more equality now — not only in Hollywood but in society in general.