Directed by William Wyler
Fanny Brice (played by Streisand), an unlikely Jewish girl from the wrong side of the tracks, tenaciously goes after her dream of a stage career, when she meets and falls in love with a gorgeous gambler. After they marry, his luck changes, and he winds up in prison for embezzlement. Neither can deny that they still love one another, but Nick (played by Omar Sharif) recognizes life together is impossible.
This story is the flexible biography of the legendary Fanny Brice, star of stage and radio during the early 1900’s. Streisand was born to play this role as she made her screen debut as the famous Fanny. A kind of Cinderella story where the poor, ugly duckling makes good, is always a crowd pleaser. We root for her to succeed at every junction, and with her boundless talent and enthusiasm, she does just that. Unfortunately, she seems to follow in her mother’s footsteps by falling for a handsome man that just can’t quite seem to stick around. Her mother states, “He reminds me of Fanny’s poppa, my ex, also gorgeous. Wherever he is, he should also stay there.” This is a foreshadowing of events in Fanny’s life.
The sets, cinematography, and actors offer a wonderful peek at the rise and emotional fall of greatness. However, watching Streisand, you can’t help but start screaming in your mind, “Stop showcasing those fingernails!” In nearly every scene, Barbara waves her fingers around like they have an animated life of their own. I love the film, I appreciate the talent and the story, but the fingernails nearly upstaged her in every scene!
The real Fanny Brice was briefly married before she met and married Nick the gambler. In the film version of her life, Nick’s charm overwhelms the innocent Fanny. But for the sake of story interest, this is much more entertaining to watch. We know nearly from the beginning that Nick will be bad for her, but keep hoping we are wrong. I suppose Fanny had the same hopes. When the inevitable finally arrives, we can’t help but admire Fanny for her strength of character, for standing up for the man she loves in spite of his faults, and for the grace with which she handles her broken heart.
In spite of the fingernails, this is one of my favorite films. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards. Barbara Streisand won Best Actress.
This film won Best Director and Best Cinematography, and was nominated for five other categories. The screenwriter was nominated, and rightly so. Taken from a short story that first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1933 by Maurice Walsh, Green Rushes, Frank Nugent was able to weave a story rich in subtext and conflict.
The collector’s edition of the DVD includes an interview with Maureen O’Hara where she reminisces about filming The Quiet Man, and is well worth watching.