This Conversation Between Fran Drescher and Barbra Streisand Is Pure Jewish Magic – Kveller
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This Conversation Between Fran Drescher and Barbra Streisand Is Pure Jewish Magic

The two Jewish icons gushed about each other while discussing filmmaking and feminism.


via YouTube

Dreams can come true. For years, Fran Drescher’s Fran Fine, the style icon from Queens on “The Nanny,” professed her love for the one and only Barbra Streisand, the diva from Brooklyn.

The two Jewish women from humble beginnings never got to meet onscreen while the hit show ran, but this week, Drescher and Streisand got to have a long, riveting and so very winning conversation about acting, directing, feminism, philanthropy and the state of the world that felt just as wonderful as any episode of “The Nanny” (well, maybe except for the state of the world part). The setting for their talk — with a candelabra, carpeted staircases, a creepy painting of a mother and child, doilies and velvet curtains — only added to its charm.

It all happened in honor of Barbra’s SAG Life Achievement Award. Drescher, the president of the Screen Actor’s Guild, intrepidly led the organization in its successful strike last year. Drescher started the conversation with some gushing, of course.

“I cannot tell you what an honor it is, for six years on ‘The Nanny’ every episode we paid homage to you,” Drescher told the actress and director, who was sitting comfortably in an ornate chair wearing wired-rimmed glasses.

Streisand admitted she knew this about the sitcom but never watched a single episode because it felt “egotistical,” yet she told Drescher that she would love to watch some episodes with her. (Isn’t it thrilling to just imagine them both watching old episodes of “The Nanny” together? Maybe while noshing on some of Streisand’s favorite coffee ice cream?)

Drescher also added that she can’t stop telling people to get Streisand’s “unbelievable” biography, especially the audiobook because “you get so much value for your money… you get 48 hours with you!” She also gushed about the delightful music that accompanies each chapter.

“It’s amazing, you’re amazing,” she summarizes, then gets to her questions, which are all about what Barbra loves about acting and directing, but also what it means to be a woman in Hollywood.

The two spent a lot of time talking about “Yentl.” Drescher praises Streisand for being the first woman director to win a Golden Globe, and Streisand shares that she was surprised at winning the award, having been nominated with some movie industry giants, like Ingmar Bergman.

When Drescher remarks that it took Streisand 15 years to get the movie made, Streisand responds, “Exactly. Because who wanted to do a movie about, you know, a Jewish girl who wanted to study Talmud, and she has to dress as a man in order to get into school?”

“You were breaking the ceiling in filmmaking for women by having the tenacity to say, ‘I can do more than just be in front of the camera,'” Drescher fawned.

“Did you realize, in the moment, that you were doing something even bigger than the sum of its parts, because you were leading women and girls into a future that looked different than the one that you came out of?” Drescher asked.

“I had a responsibility,” Streisand responded, “to women and girls and the movie… It’s all one thing.”

Streisand brought up how dismayed she is by the threat to reproductive rights across America. “What’s happening with women and their bodies is unconscionable,” Streisand lamented. “It should be against the law.”

“It was,” Drescher reminded her.

Drescher asked one question many of us have been asking about women’s rights lately, especially in light of the fact that just like Barbra was snubbed for a best director Oscar nomination for “Prince of Tides,” Greta Gerwig, who made “Barbie,” the most commercially successful movie of last year, was too. “Have we made any progress, or is it an illusion that we’re allowed to think we’re making and then they clip our wings before we get too high?”

To that, Streisand looked at the camera and said, “That’s good — she just said it.” She wondered aloud if “it’s payback time, for women who have gotten too successful.”

Barbra studied the great women directors of history before working on “Yentl” and even worked on a short film, “Reel Models: The First Women of Film.” She is a big fan of Alice Guy-Blaché, the first woman filmmaker who started making movies all the way back in 1896. She’s also witnessed the sea change when it comes to women behind the camera in her six-decade-long career. So even though Gerwig was not nominated, she said she is definitely happy to see so many more women behind the cameras today.

Aside from that conversation, there was so much in this magical conversation to uplift us. Streisand teased a new record coming out. She talked about the importance of authenticity in acting, about her connection with Robert Redford who thought she was exotic because she came from Brooklyn, and about how her work on the film “Funny Girl,” and the generous filmmakers she worked with then — director Billy Wilder and cinematographer Harry Stradling — helped shape her career as a director. She counseled us all to remember our dreams (of course she did) and she talked about how philanthropy is so important to her because she wants to “change the fucking world.” We feel you, Barbra!

There’s something to be said about the wonderful rapport between these two great Jewish women, who refused to change their authentic Jewish selves for anyone and made great art, and have world-changing careers, because of their uncompromising visions. Both “The Nanny” and “Yentl” are stories of incredible Jewish women who tenaciously make their dreams come true.

And one of those dreams, for Drescher and for her fictional counterpart Fran Fine, was to meet Streisand. While Barbra never made it to the set of “The Nanny,” it’s clear from one anecdote that the admiration was mutual from very early on.

“When we started doing ‘The Nanny,’ we had no money at all,” Drescher’s creative partner and “The Nanny” co-creator Peter Marc Jacobson said in an episode of the podcast “Oh, Mr. Sheffield.” “It’s when Streisand had her first big comeback tour. We bought tickets to Madison Square Garden… We could only afford the last row of Madison Square Garden at the time… So, we go to Madison Square Garden, the two of us, and we sit up in the boondocks, and on the big Tron, they put Fran’s face up there. Two security guards tap us on the shoulder and said, ‘Follow us.’ They take us to the second row and said, ‘Sit here and after the show, Miss Streisand would like to meet you.’ It was an amazing night.”

As they ended their interview for SAG-AFTRA, Drescher told Streisand, “You’re a very special woman, very dear, very intelligent, and I’m wildly impressed by you.” She took Barbra’s hands in hers.

Streisand gushed right back, “I’m impressed by you too because behind that laugh of yours, there’s a lot going on… We’ll meet again, I’m sure.”

I hope that happens very soon, and for all our sakes, I hope it’s captured on camera, too.

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