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HomeTech‘Yentl’ Made Oscar Winners of Barbra Streisand & Marilyn Bergman – The Hollywood Reporter

‘Yentl’ Made Oscar Winners of Barbra Streisand & Marilyn Bergman – The Hollywood Reporter

‘Yentl’ Made Oscar Winners of Barbra Streisand & Marilyn Bergman – The Hollywood Reporter

Yentl, the story of a woman who disguises herself as a man to pursue her dream of a Talmudic education, was a pioneering film for director and star Barbra Streisand, who became the first woman to win a Golden Globe for directing in 1984. Two months later, the film again broke new ground when Marilyn Bergman became the first woman to win an Oscar for original score. She shared the award with her husband and writing partner, Alan Bergman, and composer Michel Legrand in the original song score category (at the time, the Academy handed out separate honors to “musical” and “non-musical” movies; Yentl was considered the former).

The Bergmans were already accomplished songwriters before Yentl, and had won two original song Oscars: for The Thomas Crown Affair (also a collaboration with Legrand) and The Way We Were, their first film team-up with Streisand. She and the duo had met when Streisand was performing in New York clubs at 18, and they became close friends. 

When Streisand struggled to get studio backing for Yentl, the Bergmans suggested she turn the film into a musical — and Orion Pictures came aboard. Streisand expertly blended music into the movie’s structure, according to THR’s review: “The integration of Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s lyrics into the progression of the story line is uniquely [Streisand’s] own. And she makes it work seamlessly, effortlessly. Streisand is the only character who sings in the movie; and the songs become a projection of her inner feelings … the device itself … becomes not only acceptable but fascinating in its own right.” 

Yentl was nominated in four other Oscar categories — including two original song nods for the Bergmans’ and Legrand’s “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” and “The Way He Makes Me Feel” — but Streisand was overlooked as a director nominee. THR reported that, after the ceremony, “Marilyn Bergman, aware of the slight to Barbra Streisand, said, ‘Yeah, I’m glad Yentl won something. Barbra is a winner. The film is a triumph wherever it has played.’ ”


MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

This story first appeared in a December standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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