Streisand: Still (and Always) Superstar

Vincent Canby, the otherwise estimable film critic for the N.Y. Times, once made a fool of himself, when he wrote in 1973: “The only thing that limits Streisand as a movie superstar is that she’s not really an actress, not even much of a comedienne?”

Really Mr. Canby?

He continued: “Streisand is an impersonator: when the impersonation fits the contours of the public personality—tough, driving, ambitious, shrewd, self-mocking, the performance can be effective, as in Funny Girl.”

But even he admitted that her talent is “huge, eccentric, intractable.”

Cut to decade later:

Entering into a small room at the Four Season Hotel, where she is staying to promote her latest film, Meet the Fockers, a blockbuster of a comedy, Streisand is greeted with a line borrowed from one of her famous movies, “Hello, Dolly!” “It’s nice to have you back where you belong.”

Streisand herself seems to be shocked that her last big screen appearance was eight years ago, in the poorly received, The Mirror Cracked, which she directed in addition to starring in.

In the new film, she playas sex therapist named Roz, happily married to Dustin Hoffman.

“No, no, no. I am not like Roz in that way.  This is just a character I play.”

How did she prepare for the role?

“I studied a few tapes of some of these women who do these shows.  They’re very funny, because it’s so straight and the women look so straight, like that little grandma woman, Ruth Westheimer.

It’s so straight, very objective discussions about sex, sexuality. That’s not me, I am not comfortable with that kind of talk, I am more priggish than that that, more prudish, but the thing that I do have in common with Roz is that we both appreciate love and sex at the later stage of life, that sex doesn’t have to die, and people can have fun and be free, and really enjoy life and sex in later years.

Streisand has almost become a poster child for the Hollywood radicals, the liberal who speaks out:

“I find it horrific that the fundamentalist extremist right-wing radical has no problem with a Republican actor. Arnold Schwarzenegger can become Governor, Ronald Reagan can become President, Charlton Heston can become the head of the NRA.  That’s fine when you’re a Republican, but if you’re a Democrat and a liberal, that’s a No-No. You and your profession are put down, and it’s terribly silly and unfair.”

On the idea of defending liberalism, “nobody seems to defend it. I’m angry at actually at the Democrats for not defending liberalism.  Everything good in this country came from the liberal agenda, whether it’s Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Child Labor Laws, fighting

Canby, N.Y. Times, October 18, 1973.