Monday, July 8, 2013

On a Clear Day You Can See (and Hear) Barbra

Barbra as Daisy Gamble.
This colorful adaptation of the 1965 Broadway musical is neither a delight nor dud. On the plus side, it earns kudos for originality--really, a musical about reincarnation? Barbra Streisand, still basking in the glow of Funny Girl, sounds terrific, especially on the soaring title tune. Yet, despite those virtues, On a Clear Day is ultimately that promising date that doesn't pan out--not a bad experience...but no one is interested in exchanging phone numbers.

Barbra as Melinda.
Barbra plays Daisy Gamble, a free-spirited young woman with an uptight fiance (Larry Blyden) and a touch of extra sensory perception. She seeks out college professor Marc Chabot (Yves Montand) to help her quit smoking through hypnosis. When under a trance, she recalls a previous life as Melinda Tentrees, a British socialite who rose from the lower classes. As the hypnosis sessions continue, Marc realizes that his growing admiration for the strong, confident Melinda may be turning into something more. He also becomes frustrated with the insecure Daisy, lamenting privately that she is the caterpillar and Melinda the butterfly.

Yves Montand as Marc.
Streisand and Montand make an odd couple, especially with the age difference (he was two decades older). That may be one of the reasons that the film's ending differs from the stage musical (and for the better, I think). When Paramount signed Richard Harris to a three-film contract in 1967, its intent was to pair him with Streisand in On a Clear Day. I'm not sure that would have worked better; frankly, I can't imagine him singing Montand's big song, the catchy "Come Back to Me."

Barbra in a chair-matching dress.
The songs by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner are forgettable except for the title song, the aforementioned "Come Back to Me," and Streisand's delightful rendition of "Go to Sleep." For the latter song, she duets with herself--with both Streisands wearing outfits that blend into the furniture. (Lane and Lerner added this song for the movie; it has since appeared in some of the stage revivals).

Nicholson in his trimmed role.
Director Vincente Minnelli's original version ran over three hours and was intended as a "roadshow" attraction. But with musicals on the decline, the film was shortened by an hour, eliminating several musical numbers and much of Jack Nicholson's performance as Daisy's half-brother.

In the end, one's appreciation for On A Clear Day You Can See Forever depends on one's affection for Ms. Streisand. Personally, I've always enjoyed her comedies more than her dramas, as evidenced by her delivery of this line after finding out about Marc's infatuation with Melinda: "He wasn't interested in me. He was interested in me." And, of course, no one can deny that the woman can sing.


  1. Rick, you profiled my three favorite songs from this film! I especially liked "Come Back to Me" and thought it was an exceptionally fun production number with various characters singing to Daisy but only Marc's voice being heard. The story is fair but I do give it props for not pairing up Marc and Daisy. I had forgotten Jack Nicholson was in the film but after reading about all the footage that ended up being edited out of the final cut that may be why. Of these films, I especially enjoyed Barbra Streisand in "Funny Girl."

  2. This is indeed my favorite performance by Barbra - she sings some amazing songs and her Arnold Scaasi (contemporary) and Cecil Beaton (flashback) wardrobe is to die for! I especially love when she sings with herself (Go To Sleep, Girl), the delicious opening number (Hurry It's Lovely Up Here) and her effortless belting of the title tune.

    I too appreciate the song stylings of Yves Montand, and Minnelli's inventive filming of the Come Back To Me number.

  3. Barbra's chair-matching dress notwithstanding, I prefer her in comedies too. For some strange reason, I never seen this film in its entirety, which is something I'll have to correct.