ARTICLE ELLIOTT DAVID
PHOTOGRAPHY LAWRENCE SCHILLER
PERHAPS NO OTHER ARTIST HAS ACHIEVED AS MUCH COMMERCIAL AND CRITICAL ACCLAIM AS BABS, AND SHE'S STILL GOING STRONG
There is perhaps no other artist who has transformed herself as prolifically and successfully as Barbra Streisand. Her many style shifts aside, professionally she has gone from nightclub singer to Broadway performer to silver-screen star to celebrated director. It's not merely that she's one of the rare artists who has both an Oscar and recorded a number-one single, or that she's created five number-one albums in five consecutive decades—Streisand has won nine Grammys, four Emmys, five Golden Globes, a Tony, and two Oscars (for Best Actress in Funny Girl and Best Original Song for A Star Is Born). Whereas the saga of Streisand might be more an evolution than a transition, there was a moment in time when Babs underwent a true metamorphosis.
In 1969, Streisand and her entourage of hairstylists, makeup artists, and wigs traveled to London to film Vincente Minnelli's adaptation of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, a story about a chain-smoking clairvoyant New Yorker who, while undergoing hypnosis to kick the habit, discovers she's the reincarnation of a coquettish 19th-century British lady. And to help Streisand make the shift was famed photographer and designer Sir Cecil Beaton, who designed the costumes for the film. Beaton had already won two Academy Awards for his masterful designs and art direction in My Fair Lady, and was a world-renowned photographer of celebrities, intellectuals, and royalty. In tow during that trip to London was photographer Lawrence Schiller who documented it all and who shares with us here these previously unpublished photos. "This was a man of elegance and taste," says Schiller of Beaton. "And his reputation preceded him. So Barbra and [Beaton] got along fabulously. She was like a little puppy dog in Beaton's presence. You know, she would bark every once in a while, and voice her opinion, but she was delighted with what he created. He understood her face, he understood the shape of her body. And Barbra knew what her assets were. Of course the greatest asset was her voice, but now she was moving on in life and she was making the transition to becoming a great actress. Eventually she'd become a great director. So what do you do, you surround yourself with the most talented people in the world. And she surrounded herself with Cecil Beaton."
Clear Day would be Beaton's final project, and this was not merely a transformation of Streisand's character, but for Streisand personally, as he would forever have an impact on her style and grace.