As I am on my own for the coming week, I started my Sunday afternoon by watching movies I’ve taped for just this kind of alone time. One of them is a favorite of mine from long ago that I haven’t seen in over 30 years. What struck me about revisiting this film after all these years isn’t the time that has passed, but the emotions that welled in me about who I was then and the person I have become, and the realization that this movie had an influence on me that I never realized until this moment.
Funny Girl starring a young Barbara Streisand came out in 1968. Of course the film must have played in movie theaters, which I never went to as a child, so my first viewing of it must have been a few years later when it was on local television. Remember, you young people, this was the era before DVD’s and video recording. My memory makes me think I awaited the showing of Funny Girl just as much as I did The Wizard of Oz. As I watched today I knew the words to every song and could anticipate the wisecracks that came out of the character of Fanny Brice. I remember even talking like her at times in school. I realize now how I identified with the character; a self-depreciating girl who had no confidence in her looks or worth, whose nose was almost as obvious as Barbara/Fanny. In Junior High my best friend and classmate even called me “Streisand Nose.” I could really relate to Fanny’s dismay that anyone, especially someone as handsome and worldly as Nick Arnstein (played by Omar Sharif) would look at her twice and her use of comedy to deflect her feelings of insecurity.
As a teen I watched Funny Girl before I had any experience with love, loss, and success. Watching it now after I have experienced all of that really struck a chord in me. I have been very lucky in love and success, and any loss I have experienced has strengthened me.
Watching Fanny destroy her love relationship is heart-wrenching. But I realize that I did not end up like her, sad and alone and longing for the love of her life. I also never needed to replace my feelings of inadequacy with material things; I grew to love and cherish my unique look and quirky personality. In retrospect I did, however, retain the wit and dry humor that I picked up from watching that movie, and the use of it has served me well.
Nostalgia often reminds of a better time and place, one without the burdens and regrets we bring to our later years. In this case, however, nostalgia is a mirror I was able to look into and see not who I dreamed of being, but of who I have become. I have to admit it looks pretty good from this side of the glass.