Chapter 11. ‘Yentl’: Was the Bird Real?

11.

Yentl Reviews

Yentl

I was in a much better frame of mind Friday morning.  My “at movie” eating habits had changed in the ten years since ‘The Way We Were’.  Long before ‘no butter’ became a cliché I had been eating my popcorn without butter and salt.  Jeffrey Rindler was as nervous as I had been on Wednesday and I could not calm him down.   For me, I just could not wait to see this beautiful movie again with a real audience.

We were sitting in our favorite seats, front row center of the mezzanine.  The movie was magnificent.  I hate sitting close-up, it always looks like television.  Why go to the movies if it looks like television?  I fell in love with the movie that day.  It always takes me a while to warm up.  If you think I am a good friend the first year you know me, well, the second and third years will only get better.

I never like anything at first  – I don’t like learning new things and finding a place for them in my life.  As I sat and watched ‘Yentl’ it dawned on me that I had been told this story before.  ‘Yentl’ was not this strange movie that just happened to happen to star Barbra Streisand.  Rather, it appeared to be the culmination of every thought, wish, dream, desire, goal, and emotion that Barbra had been experiencing (and sharing with us) for the last 20 years.  Now, for the first time, everything was under one roof.  Everything else was just practice and preparation for ‘Yentl’.  This movie became an instant classic with me.  Even though I had only seen it twice (in the first week no less) I immediately felt nostalgic about this movie.  It was like watching Barbra’s entire career in two hours.

I don’t remember if we grabbed something to eat, or hung around for the second performance…I do remember that I went home and that night made an audiotape entitled Yentl: Yesterday, Today, and Forever.  The purpose of this audiotape was to mix and match the songs from the movie with songs Barbra had already recorded that echoed the same sentiment or emotion.  On paper it sounds like nothing but if you ever listen to it I think it is a pretty cool.  Oh, and this might be a nice place to mention that I am still waiting for the two disk set of the ‘Yentl’ soundtrack, one disk for the songs and the other for the background music.  I love the “incidental” music in that movie.

I followed the press on 'Yentl' every day.

I followed the press on ‘Yentl’ every day.

‘Yentl’ played at the Ziegfeld for how long?  Eighteen weeks, nineteen weeks, seventeen?  I don’t remember.  I do remember that I was at every Friday night show – the one that started around 7pm-ish.  I never had less than a great time.  I always tried to bring with me someone who would not have normally gone to see the movie and I was always impressed with just how touched people were by watching it. At every show I learned something new.  I know film is “captured” and it doesn’t change from screening to screening but sometimes you see something, the next time you don’t see it, then you see something new.  Film to me is a very alive medium.

I bumped into this guy a couple of times and we would get into conversations about the movie but he was “too smart” for my liking.  All I knew was that “I liked it” and he was all about technique and form and shape and screen ratios and he kind of thought I was wrong for liking it without dissecting it and I remember telling him to stop making it sound like a talking blueprint.   I think our last little argument concerned the scene when Avigdor goes swimming and Barbra points that no, no she’ll just stay where she is and watch the clothes.  This guy asked me if I saw the bird flying out from the trees in the background.  Of course I had seen the bird, I mean, you watch a movie enough times you start seeing the birds.  Anyway, he explained that it was a mechanical bird, and that it was activated by a remote control, so that when Barbra points her finger the bird would fly out in the same direction.  Some theory about filling the frame, and our eye movement.  Really?  I think I avoided him after that.  But I’ve thought about it all this time.  People sometimes ask me what would I say to Barbra Streisand if I ever met her.   I only have one question (maybe two); but here’s the first one:  “Was that bird real?”

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Many people I brought to the movie were women I worked with at the Harley Hotel.  These women had jobs, not careers: they were telephone operators, housekeepers, and waitresses.  My point is this.  They worked and they did what they were doing because they had to.  Each and every one of them was so impressed with Yentl, the person, who had the guts and the nerve to fight for what she wanted.

These gals from the hotel were just paying audience members.  They had no pre-conceived notions about “Barbra Streisand: Superstar”, or Academy nominations, or reviews from The New York Times.  These were women who were responding to a very strong, raw story.  I had thought the movie was a love story that took place after somebody’s father died.  These women taught me that it was a story about the struggle to use your full potential.  These women would never be interviewed by major media outlets, no one would ever hear their opinions of the movie.  I always hoped that Barbra knew that women she would never meet were on her side and love the movie that she made.

I was at the last regularly scheduled performance of ‘Yentl’ at the Ziegfeld Theatre.  The applause at the closing credits was just as enthusiastic that day as it had been on opening day.  I love the movies because it’s the one place people don’t die.  Movie stars live on forever.  No matter where they are or what they’re up to you can catch them in a movie.   I had always wished my father had been a movie star so I could “visit” him at the movies, I don’t feel that way now, but I did as a kid.  I know we don’t need moving images for people to be close to us.  But it’s a shame movie stars don’t know how much the audience appreciates them.  Maybe Barbra was sitting in the audience that day and got to experience the love that filled the theatre.  Maybe not.

I’ve hit on this point before and I just hope Barbra knows.  I hope she doesn’t just listen to the “yes” men in the front offices who are being nice to her because their wives want her to come to dinner.  I hope she knows she has made a difference and is important to people who would never stop her on the street, or interrupt her while she was having a ham sandwich.  But you know what, it doesn’t matter how many fans she has satisfied; she has to feel it from within.  And I hope she feels that she’s done a great job.

Yesterday, Today and Forever

“Yentl: Yesterday, Today and Forever” song listing.

Side 1:

Pavane

Where is it Written?

My Pa

Papa, Can You Hear Me?

I Can See It

This is One of Those Moments

Love With All the Trimmings

No Wonder He Loves Her

The Music That Makes Me Dance

The Way He Makes Me Feel

He Touched Me

No Wonder He Loves Her (II)

You Are Woman

Side 2:

Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long

Tomorrow Night

Gotta Move

Will Someone Ever Look at Me That Way?

Make the Man Love Me

No Matter What Happens

Starting Here, Starting Now

It Takes a Woman (reprise)

No Wonder He Loves Her (reprise)

Never Been a Woman Before

Papa, Watch Me Fly

On a Clear Day

Studio versions:

The Way He Makes Me Feel

My Father’s Song

No Matter What Happens

Funny Girl Soundtrack “closing credits”

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