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Just like 'butta': Streisand rolls onto the big screen

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Barbra Streisand fans get the big half of the wishbone a week from today -- a box set of five television specials (Rhino, $60), including at least two TV landmarks: My Name Is Barbra and Color Me Barbra. Having conquered the small screen, she would soon take on the big. Her first three films were:

Funny Girl

1968, Columbia TriStar, rated G, $20

Streisand's screen debut repeated her star-making stage success as comedian Fanny Brice, and many wondered how she'd get along with her director on the film version. He was the painstakingly precise William Wyler, then and still the most Oscar-nominated director with 12. Whatever tension there was, it was all overlooked when Wyler's penultimate movie got Streisand the Oscar (a tie with Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter), a best-picture nomination and deserving popular success.

Hello, Dolly!

1969, Fox, G, $15

Streisand's follow-up, opposite Walter Matthau, got drubbed by those who had had it with overblown musicals in a counterculture era. Dolly lost a fortune and helped to all but kill the genre, yet this famed musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker (the tuneless 1958 version also is on DVD) is more fun than its rep indicates. Gene Kelly directs in an old-fashioned style that seemingly pays homage to his MGM days, an approach that seems mellow now that Dolly is much closer in years to the MGM era than to today.

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

1970, Paramount, G, $20

Even on stage, the Alan Jay Lerner-Burton Lane musical about reincarnation carried the rap: "bad book, great tunes." Conceived as a three-hour reserved-seat attraction, Vincente Minnelli's final screen musical was cut by a third. Visually gorgeous, musically supreme but with a dull story, it soars during Streisand's What Did I Have That I Don't Have Now and her finale of the title tune. Ill at ease appearing between Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, Jack Nicholson has an unlikely-for-him character name: Tad Pringle.

Emile de Antonio's distillation of the Army-McCarthy hearings, Point of Order; the animated Madagascar

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