Tuesday, January 18, 2022

“My Man,” Times Three: Hear Fanny Brice and Barbra Streisand Square Off! (Three Videos)

[Previously: “On Not Hating Barbra Streisand.”]

By N.S.

Fanny Brice, 1921

I commented at youtube: Whether this was sung in 1921 or 1938 (as some commenters claimed), I thank you from the bottom of my heart for uploading it. We live in terrible times but people like you bring a bit of sunlight through the clouds.

I had heard Brice sing this only once before, almost 50 years ago, when I saw her in The Great Ziegfeld on The Late Show. I remembered the song as a pathetic dirge; I like it better this way.

With that said, Barbra Streisand’s version is vastly superior. Whoever arranged the song for the movie version of Funny Girl punched it up in a way that was perfect for the gifts of the then-young woman who would prove to be the greatest female singer of her generation.

I read somewhere that the 1964 Broadway show of Funny Girl, which provided Streisand with her breakthrough role, did not end with this number, but instead with “The Music that Makes Me Dance,” a lovely Jules Styne-Bob Merrill number that was dropped from the picture. (I see now that that number was followed by a refrain in the show of “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” the show-stopper that closed the First Act.)

During my first year (1980-1981) in West Germany, especially my first semester, I was crippled with homesickness, which infected even my dreams at night. Fortunately, Tübingen’s deutsch-amerikanisches Institut (the German-American Institute) had a healthy supply of American record albums of music by Aaron Copland and Funny Girl, among others, which I was able to borrow.

One of the angels (“Musical Cast”) responsible for making youtube what it has been, but probably won’t be for much longer, has posted a recording of the encore Streisand gave following her last performance as Fanny Brice on the live, legitimate stage in Funny Girl, on Christmas, 1965. She sang “My Man,” the number she would close the picture with. Note that she was not doing a refrain of the song. “My Man” was not a song from the show.

In the 1968 William Wyler picture, just before Fanny is to go on, she gets the papers from her lawyer that her divorce from gambler Nick Arnstein, the love of her life, and the father of her two children, has been finalized. And so, she sings while fighting back tears.

I hear her fighting back tears at the beginning of her Christmas, 1965 encore, but they aren’t part of an act. Before Barbra Streisand became the Ego that Ate the World, she was a brash Jewish kid from Brooklyn. That night she was 23 years old, Funny Girl was by far the biggest thing she’d ever done, and the girl who had started out singing in Greenwich Village coffee houses may have sensed that her Broadway career was coming to an end.

Barbra Streisand’s Final Performance in Funny Girl - December 25th, 1965 Musical Cast

Barbra Streisand sings My Man after the curtain call in her last performance in Funny Girl.

Barbra Streisand, from the Movie Version of Funny Girl (1968)

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