After enjoying a run of 1,348 performances on Broadway, this autobiography of showgirl Fanny Brice came to the big screen via director William Wyler, and producer Ray Stark – the husband of Fanny Brice’s daughter.
Barbra Streisand repeated the sensational, award-winning performance she gave on Broadway and in London’s West End.
The centrifugal force behind the whole enterprise, Streisand injected a charge of adrenaline into every scene in which she appeared, and single-handedly turned a compendium of backstage musical clichés into a warm and winning personal drama.
True, she had some excellent Jule Styne and Bob Merrill songs to fall back on (including People and Don’t Rain On My Parade), but not a great deal of support from Isobel Lennart’s screenplay which bogged down the film’s wordy second-half.
Nor was Ms Streisand helped by a miscast Omar Sharif as Nicky Arnstein, the handsome gambler she marries (and the man responsible for most of her unhappiness).
As Streisand was the show, and the show was Streisand, there were few opportunities for the supporting cast – including Anne Francis as a backstage chum and Walter Pidgeon as Florenz Ziegfeld – to shine.
Ziegfeld hires Brice for his new Ziegfeld Follies show, and her comic flair soon ensures she becomes one of the Follies’ biggest stars. Yet, while the star of her ambition is rising, her marriage is descending into rocky waters.
The film cost a mammoth $10 million to make and turned out to be Columbia’s second-biggest grosser of the Sixties.
Barbra Streisand won Best Actress for the role and starred again as Fanny Brice in the 1975 sequel, Funny Lady.