Barbra Streisand (born April 24, 1942) is an iconic Jewish American singer and film actress, beatproducer, and director.
She was born Barbara Joan Streisand in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York then moved to another area in Brooklyn where she was educated at Beis Yakov School and Erasmus Hall High School. Her father died when she was only 15 months old, and she had a lifelong turbulent relationship with her stepfather.
Following a music competition, she became a club singer in her teens. She originally had wanted to be an actress, and appeared in a number of off-off-Broadway productions, including one with then-aspiring actress Joan Rivers, but when her boyfriend Barry Dennen helped her shape a club act — first performed in a gay bar in Manhattan's Greenwich Village in 1960 — she became a big success as a singer. It was also at this time that she shortened her first name to make it more distinctive.
She signed with Columbia Records in 1962 and her first album, The Barbra Streisand Album, won two Grammy Awards in 1963. At one time, Streisand's first three albums appeared simultaneously on Billboard's Top Ten - an amazing feat considering it was at a time when Rock and Roll and The Beatles dominated the charts. Streisand also appeared on Broadway, first in the musical I Can Get It For You Wholesale and then as Fanny Brice in Jule Styne's and Bob Merrill's Funny Girl (1964). After some notable TV guest appearances, Streisand built on her success with a number of television specials for CBS.
Her first film was a reprise of her Broadway hit, Funny Girl (1968), for which she won the 1968 Academy Award for Best Actress, sharing it with Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter), the first time there was a tie in this Oscar category. Her next two movies were also based on musicals, Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly! (1969) and Alan Jay Lerner's and Burton Lane's On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970), while her fourth film was based on the Broadway play The Owl and the Pussycat (1970). She also starred in the original screwball comedies What's Up, Doc? (1972), with Ryan O'Neal, and For Pete's Sake (1974), and the hugely successful drama The Way We Were with Robert Redford.
Along with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier, Barbra Streisand formed First Artists Production Company in 1970 so these actors could secure properties and develop movie projects for themselves. Streisand's initial outing with First Artists, while not a huge commercial success, was a very personal film for her and one she felt a tremendous connection. She chose to bring to the screen an off-beat novel titled, "Up the Sandbox". The story of a Manhattan housewife, it examines a modern woman's struggle to find her own voice and to fight against the mundane apsects of her life by developing a rich, inner fantasy life.
Streisand felt this was a political statement about the then current state of many women in American society. "I don't care if it doesn't make a cent," she told the press, but felt it held social relevance and showed what it is like to be a woman. It is an interesting film for Streisand because, for maybe the first time, the public saw a glimpse of a more personal side of the star. No longer hiding behind wigs, costumes and makeup, the "real' Streisand began to emerge on film and one with a decidely contemporary personality.
Also in 1970, she had a topless scene in The Owl and the Pussycat. She quickly regretted the move and bought up all prints of the film, deleting the scene. When High Society magazine published the original photos of her bare breasts, Streisand sued them.
Over the years, Steisand has been the recipient of an award in every medium she has worked in. This "grand slam" as an honoree has never been duplicated by any other performer in history. Among her many awards are two Oscars, six Emmys, and eleven Golden Globes, 10 Grammys, a Tony award, two cable ace awards, the American Film Insitute's Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as a number of other awards. Her second Academy Award was as composer of the song "Evergreen", from A Star Is Born (1976) is the first time a woman has received this award. In 1995 she received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Her record sales are only outnumbered by Elvis Presley, ahead of the Beatles and The Rolling Stones, making her the highest selling female recording artist in history.
She has produced a number of her own films, setting up Barwood Films in 1972. For Yentl (1983) she was producer, director, writer, and star, an experience she largely repeated for The Prince of Tides (1991). Steven Spielberg called Yentl a masterpiece, and many critics praised the film as well as Prince of Tides. There was controversy when Yentl received a number of Academy Award nominations, but Streisand was not nominated for Best Director. Some claimed that her well-known uncompromising, tough behavior was to blame for the slight, while others felt that Hollywood was punishing her for being a woman, and if a man behaved the same way, he would have been given recognition. Prince of Tides was nominated for Best Picture but Streisand did not receive a nomination for Best Director.
In 2004, Streisand reappeared on the big screen in the comedy Meet the Fockers, playing opposite Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, and Robert DeNiro among others. The film was very successful commercially and Streisand garnered positive reviews.
She has recorded more than 60 albums, almost all with the Columbia Records label, after her early work in the 1960s (The Second Barbra Streisand Album, The Third Album, My Name Is Barbra, etc.). Many were soundtrack albums from her films.
During the 1970s she was also highly prominent in the pop charts, with number-one records like "The Way We Were", "Evergreen", "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" and "Woman In Love".
When the 1970s ended, Streisand was named the most successful female singer in the US, with only Elvis Presley and The Beatles having sold more albums.
Streisand returned to her musical theater roots with 1985's The Broadway Album. This was an unexpected commercial success, and featured some songs reworked by Stephen Sondheim especially for this recording.
At the end of the last millennium, she still was the number-one female singer in the United States, with number-one albums in each decade since she had started out.
In 1991 she released a four-disc box set, entitled Just for the Record. A separate disc, entitled "Highlights from Just for the Record" featured two dozen tracks, including live material, greatest hits, and rarities, from her early recordings up to 1991.
Around 1992, however, success was not in Streisand's favor. She was losing money, and sought advice from former boyfriend Dennen. He suggested she perform in a series of live concerts, not only for financial reasons, but to overcome her chronic stage fright, as well. The tour was one of the biggest all-media merchandise parlays in history. Dennen later wrote a book called My Life with Barbra.
On New Year's Eve 1999 she returned to the concert stage, scoring another personal triumph for giving the highest grossing single concert in Las Vegas history to date. She later toured Australia with that programme, called Timeless, which was also released on a two-disc album by Columbia.
Her most recent albums have been Christmas Memories (2001), a collection of somber holiday songs, and The Movie Album (2003), featuring famous movie themes and backed by a large symphony orchestra.
In April 2005, Streisand announced that her next album would be written and produced by Bee Gees star Barry Gibb, with whom she had collaborated on the 1980 hit Guilty. The album Guilty Pleasures will be released worldwide in September 2005.
She was married to Elliott Gould from 1963 to 1971, with whom she had her only child, son Jason Gould (who later appeared as her character's son in The Prince Of Tides). She briefly dated Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the early 1970s, had long-term relationships with hairdresser-turned-producer Jon Peters and tennis player Andre Agassi, and later married actor James Brolin in 1998.
Streisand is known for her outspoken liberal political views, and is a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party. She attracted unfavorable attention for a 2003 lawsuit she filed against a photographer whose aerial photos documenting the California coast included an image of her Malibu estate. Streisand lost the suit and was ordered to pay the photographer's attorneys' fees.
Streisand's strong, larger-than-life personality has made her an icon to some members of her fan base. This was affectionately satirized by Mike Myers's "Linda Richman" series of sketches on Saturday Night Live, during one of which Streisand herself made a surprise appearance.
On the other hand, Streisand's sometimes over-the-top performance style, vanity (she insists on being filmed from one side only), and political involvement often make her a target of hostility as well. For instance, she was repeatedly satirized on the South Park animated series such as in the episode called "Mecha-Streisand", in which she tried to take over the world by transforming herself into a giant robot.