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Sunday, 8 May 2011

Barbra Streisand Mentor Arthur Laurents Dies at 93

By Allison Waldman - Examiner.com

Arthur Laurents was a man of enormous talent, the writer of "Gypsy," "West Side Story" and "The Way We Were," he was also a theater director and one of his claims to fame was directing Barbra Streisand in "I Can Get It For You Wholesale." Today, May 6, Arthur Laurents died at the age of 93. He'd lived a rich life and even in these last months of his life, he was intimately involved in a proposed film version of "Gypsy" that would star Streisand.

There are many obituaries about Laurents being published today and there will be tributes to the man who left behind a legacy of amazing work. In addition to the aforementioned works, he also directed the Broadway version of "La Cage Aux Folles" in 1983, wrote the Alfred Hitchcock film "Rope," and penned the screenplay of "The Turning Point." There seemed to be nothing much that Laurents couldn't do if he set his mind to it.

Arthur Laurents' life was interwoven with Barbra Streisand's in many ways, not the least of which was his first spotting her talent in "I Can Get It For You Wholesale." It was at that juncture in Streisand's career when her vast talent and ambition were yet harnessed by her or anyone else. She was a brilliant, but undisciplined performer. Working in a Broadway musical, under Laurents' direction, Streisand learned. It was a contentious collaboration and the two butted heads. However, both got what they wanted from "Wholesale." Streisand catapulted to instant fame by stopping the show every night of the run. Laurents got a star turn that held together a ramshackled musical that would have closed in a week if not for Streisand's "Miss Marmelstein" solo.

Whether they clashed professionally, it didn't matter when all was said and done. "Wholesale" succeeded in buliding a friendship between Barbra and Arthur, one that would last decades. Laurents had taught Barbra many things in "Wholesale," things she would later use when she became a director herself. And Laurents saw in Barbra a once in a lifetime performer. He knew he wanted to work with her again, and he made it happen.

Laurents wrote "The Way We Were" for Barbra Streisand. The character of Katie Morosky was based on a woman he'd known in college -- a woman ironically named Fanny Price -- but she was pure Streisand. Laurents had captured Barbra's soul with that character. When Barbra received the 50-page treatment he'd written, she knew instantly that she had to play Katie…and so she did.

"The Way We Were" wasn't all Arthur Laurents had wanted it to be, and he loudly complained that Barbra and director Sydney Pollack and producer Ray Stark had mucked it up. His vision was less glamourous. He wanted more politics and less love story. Whatever his regrets, though, Laurents could not deny the film's success. Nearly 38 years after it arrived in movie theaters, "The Way We Were" remains one of the greatest romantic movies of all time. In the dozens of biographies of Laurents that have been published today, "The Way We Were" is as much a part of his legacy as "West Side Story" and "Gypsy."

Currently, Barbra has just begun filming "My Mother's Curse," a comedy in which she'll play Seth Rogen's mother. It'll be in theaters next spring, and perhaps after that, Barbra's interpretation of "Gypsy" will be filming or in post-production. Maybe yes, maybe no. Hopefully it will be yes. And if it is, I look forward to seeing it and watching for the film's dedication which should and -- in my opinion -- must be to Arthur Laurents.

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