Just got my copy of Funny Girl yesterday and, as reported here, it looks and sounds beautiful. I have to say that, large screen, lights out and sound cranked, this Blu-ray recalls the feeling I had sitting in my reserved seat for the roadshow run at a top big city movie house as well if not better than any Blu-ray I've ever seen.
IMO, Barbra puts in one of the most Oscar-worthy performances of all time in this one. I remember she was so new, so unconventional, to the point of being thought "bizarre" by many. One went to see Funny Girl in those days knowing there would be a segment of the audience, probably dragged there kicking and screaming by friends or relatives as I did with a few of mine at the time, who made it known in no uncertain terms they just did not "get" Barbra Streisand, couldn't for the life of them understand how anyone could sit and listen to her or look at her face for the length of a song or two on television much less for over two hours on a giant theater screen. There was definitely a sprinkling of an "Ok...show me" vibe in those early audiences after so much had been made of her first screen appearance. And I was going to the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California, where one might think there was a wider acceptance of someone new and different!
But Barbra always, and I mean always, won them over within the first 30 minutes of this movie. Tension and uncertainty at first, even annoyance at her strange entrance, the prolonged silence, the machine gun bit. What the hell is she up to? 2 1/2 more hours of this? Then, somewhere in the middle of "I'm The Greatest Star" it happens. You could feel the sea change in the house. It was definitely palpable by the end of her roller skate dance and, certainly, by the end of "I'd Rather Be Blue". By the end of "People", the deal was sealed, we were all in love with Barbra Streisand, most of continuing that love affair to this very day.
Interesting thing about her Oscar win and the tie with Kathrine Hepburn, who was terrific in The Lion in Winter and deserved the Oscar for that performance, too! Assuming Hepburn was true to her infamous rather anti-Oscar/anti-Actors Competition form and didn't bother to vote at all, and assuming Barbra Streisand did vote for herself after being inducted in the Academy as a voting member so soon in her film career (I admit I don't know the official word on this but I had understood that even a nomination didn't automatically qualify someone to become a voting member of AMPAS after a single film contribution...maybe someone here can clarify or correct that impression if it is wrong), the unavoidable conclusion is it was Barbra Streisand's own vote for herself that put an Oscar in her hand that night. Had Hepburn voted for herself and/or Streisand not voted for herself because she was not a voting member or whatever, the Oscar would have gone to Hepburn alone and we never would have known how close it came to going to Streisand as well. Or Streisand alone.
I wonder if that detail, a first time actress winning the Oscar where it is so publicly known that it was probably her own vote that made it so, has contributed to a sort of love-hate relationship with the industry over the decades. After all these years it still seems like the jury is undecided in some circles on Barbra Streisand the actress and filmmaker. As it turned out, that Oscar tie was more a statement of a split decision about her than an enveloping embrace in ways that other, presumed clearer Oscar wins would not, and I suspect some of that lingers to this very day.