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Barbra Streisand Praises The “Dreamers” Who Built Hollywood In Heartfelt Acceptance Of SAG Career Honor

In a meditative and heartfelt speech, Barbra Streisand accepted the SAG Life Achievement Award on Saturday by paying tribute to the industry’s roots and extolling her abiding passion for the craft.

“For a couple of hours people could sit in a theater and escape their own troubles – what an idea! Moving pictures on a screen,” she said in remarks that followed a nearly 1-minute standing ovation as she took the stage.

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“I can’t help but think back to the people who built this industry. Ironically, they were also escaping their own troubles,” she continued, in a contemplative but forceful tone. Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer and the four Warner Brothers (all of them Jews who changed their names when they came to America, Streisand noted) “were all fleeing the prejudice they faced in Easter Europe, simply because of their religion. And they were dreamers, too, like all of us here tonight. And now I dream of a world where such prejudice is a thing of the past.”

The 81-year-old honoree also hailed two Hollywood figures who played outsized parts in her being able to branch out from singing and Broadway. “I was very lucky to have two brilliant men on my first film, Funny Girl: William Wyer, the director, and his cinematographer, Harry Stradling,” Streisand recounted of the 1968 release. “These two men were extraordinary. They had no problem with a young woman who had opinions. I could suggest ideas for a scene to Willy and try various lighting effects with Harry and they never, ever put me down. Looking back, they were really ahead of their time, and that was fantastic. And it set the tone for my whole career, actually.”

Taking up less time than the two presenters (Jennifer Aniston and Bradley Cooper) who introduced her, Streisand covered some of the ground she did in her recently published memoir, My Name is Barbra. She recalled eating ice cream in her Brooklyn apartment and frequently stepping out to watch movies, including Guys & Dolls in 1955. The 25-cent ticket to that movie musical at the Loews Kings offered a big dose of Hollywood glamour (“The sets! Oh my God, compared to our apartment, where my mother covered everything in plastic”), plus Marlon Brando (“my first crush”).

After kicking off her speech by noting that she has been a SAG member for 60 years, Streisand came full circle by the end, celebrating the nature of acting and the still-energizing experience of watching great performances. “I never went to college,” she said. “I always thought acting was my education.”

Lavishing praise on the recently released French Film Une Belle Course (Driving Madeline) and its 95-year-old star, Line Renaud, Streisand said it showed “how you can make a profound connection with someone simply by telling the truth. It reminded me all over again of how much I love film and why we all strive to make the best movies we can. And so many people who have done that are sitting right here tonight, in this room.” Addressing actors and directors, she added, “I loved working with you, playing with you, and inhabiting that wonderful magic of the movies with you. Most of all, I want to thank you for giving me so much joy, just watching all of you on the screen.”

You can watch her speech above.

The SAG honor joins a mantel full of career honors for Streisand. She was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, a Kennedy Center Honor in 2008, an AFI Live Achievement Award in 2001 and a Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Golden Globes in 1999.

Streisand is an EGOT winner with two Oscars (Best Actress for Funny Girl in 1968 and Original Song for the love theme from A Star Is Born in 1977), four Emmys, 10 Grammys and a Tony Award for Star of the Decade in 1970. The latter came after nominations for the musicals I Can Get Get It For You Wholesale in 1962 in her acting debut and originating the Fanny Brice role in the stage version of Funny Girl in 1964.

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