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Saturday, August 24, 2013

'On A Clear Day You Can See Forever:' Streisand Plays the Diva With Something Extra

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (PMT)
Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the 1970 Barbara Streisand musical comedy "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" reinforces a personal belief that, in her prime, Streisand did a much better job with screwball comedies than diva attempts at high drama. "For Pete's Sake" and "What's Up Doc" from the same era are timeless classics.

These screwball comedies also benefit from letting everyone do the job that utilizes their talents. Streisand sticks to performing and leaves the directing, producing, costume design, hair styling, set construction, makeup, production accounting, and craft services catering to others. 

Other than being at least six years older than her 22 year-old character, Streisand is perfectly cast as Daisy Gamble in the Vincente Minelli-directed "Clear Day." Like Streisand's other screwball comedy roles, Gamble is a very caring and equally kooky and neurotic New York woman in the midst of a moderate problem that her neurosis has expanded into a full-blown crisis.

Gamble's concern is that her chain smoking will prevent her mild-mannered fiance Warren Pratt from landing his dream job with a large corporation that frowns on vices of any nature.

Gamble's desire to quit smoking prompts her to seek out hypnotherapist Dr. Marc Chabot, played by Yves Montand, to use hypnosis to help her break the habit. Their meeting during a medical school lecture is a classic cinema moment.

Chabot soon learns on agreeing to treat Gamble both that she has exceptional Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) and, ala Shirley MacLaine, channels past lives while under hypnosis. Gamble additionally has a magical ability to make flowers grow and bloom miraculously quickly.

The ESP manifests itself by Gamble being able to read other people's minds and sensing when someone is even thinking of telephoning her or anyone near her. Two of the best scenes in "Day" involve Gamble repeatedly getting ready to pick up the phone while Chabot is debating whether to call her, and Gamble frantically dancing around to block efforts by Chabot to control her through telepathy.

Gamble's primary life-deprived alter-ego is an 18th century woman who is a much more sophisticated version of Anna Nicole Smith. Lady Melinda Winifred Waine Tentrees' life evolves from being a young orphan running an ongoing blackmail scheme to marrying an older man for money and then scheming to marry an age-appropriate man for both love and money. A scene in which Melinda struggles to have her older husband catch her in an adulterous embrace is hilarious.

Melinda's best moments include her hard-knock life at the orphanage, and her paramour's gambling winnings continuing to pile up while he and she are locking lips.

A central conflict in "Day" involves Chabot falling in love with Melinda; this prompts Gamble to issue the memorable line "stop using my head for a motel room." Of course, everything works out in the end.

Streisand sings most of the songs, which are primarily solos that express the mostly pain (with some glee) in the character's soul at the time. They also typically involve quiet moments, rather than full spectacle flash-mob style song-and-dance numbers.

The few upbeat numbers are the most enjoyable. Streisand's "Go to Sleep," and Chabot's "Come Back to Me" stand out. Additionally, as the below clip courtesy of YouTube shows, the staging of "Come Back to Me" is particularly clever.

This clip also partially demonstrates Minnelli's success at capturing the late '60s-early '70s style of Manhattan.

Giving Streisand a shoulder-length 'do and dressing her in matching French school-girl dresses and hats further contribute to the feel of the late '60s Marlo Thomas New York-based sitcom "That Girl" in which 20-something Ann Marie struggles to establish an acting career.

Notable supporting actors in "Day" include Bob Newhart as a slightly exasperated college president and Jack Nicholson as Gamble's counter-culture step-brother.

Classic TV fans will love seeing Mabel Albertson as Chabot's secretary. Albertson plays Don Hollinger's mother on "That Girl, Darrin Stephens' mother on "Bewitched" and Howard Sprague's mother on "The Andy Griffith Show."

The final analysis is that the "something extra" that "Day" offers audiences extends beyond Gamble's ESP. It will make you laugh, cry, and dance.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Day" is welcome to email me. For the benefit of those of you without ESP, my Twitter ID is @tvdvdguy.