Up the Sandbox

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Up the Sandbox
VHS cover artwork, circa. 1980s
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Produced by Robert Chartoff
Irwin Winkler
Written by Anne Roiphe (novel)
Paul Zindel
Starring Barbra Streisand
David Selby
Music by Billy Goldenberg
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Edited by Robert Lawrence
Barwood Films
First Artists
Distributed by National General Pictures
Release date
  • December 21, 1972 (1972-12-21)
Running time
97 min
Country United States
Language English
Box office $3,500,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

Up the Sandbox is a 1972 American comedy-drama film directed by Irvin Kershner, starring Barbra Streisand.

Paul Zindel's screenplay, based on the novel by Anne Roiphe, focuses on Margaret Reynolds, a bored young New York City wife and mother who slips into increasingly bizarre fantasies.

The cast includes David Selby, Paul Benedict, George S. Irving, Conrad Bain, Isabel Sanford, Lois Smith, and Stockard Channing in her film debut.


Margaret Reynolds, a young wife and mother, severely bored with her day-to-day life in New York City and neglected by her husband (David Selby), slowly slips into depression, finding refuge in her outrageous fantasies: her mother breaking into her apartment, an explorer's demonstration of tribal fertility music at a party causing strange transformations, and joining terrorists to plant explosives in the Statue of Liberty.


Director Irvin Kershner reportedly told Barbra Streisand's biographer, James Spada, that he was originally unhappy with the script, but also that he was advised not to express his dissatisfaction to Streisand. Several days into filming, when Streisand went to Kershner and asked him why they were having so much trouble, he told her that they had started shooting with a weak script. Kershner said, "Your people warned me not to tell you." To that, Streisand said, laughing as she did, "That's ridiculous! If a script isn't good enough, let's work to improve it."[2]

Kershner actually took his crew on location to remote East Africa, but he had originally planned to have them shoot in a backlot at MGM. When Streisand convinced him it would be better for the film to shoot on location, he agreed and so convinced the team of producers, Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler. Kershner used Samburu tribesmen as extras, portraying the fabled Masai tribe.

Streisand remembered Kenya as "quite beautiful...I remember it being so hot. We had no air conditioner or anything, so I had a little, dinky trailer filled with flies. Flies everywhere. But I loved the people, the Samburu people, and I made very good friends with a woman of the tribe. We didn’t speak the same language, obviously, but she understood what I was trying to say to her. She showed me how to dress. Everything was held together with safety pins so nobody had to sew anything. I had the greatest outfits. You rip the fabric and you safety pin in where you want it. And then jewelry made out of telephone wires, little beads. She taught me how they put makeup on their eyes with the ground stone, blue..."[3]

Kershner's hopes of working with Streisand again were stymied when she rejected the title role in Eyes of Laura Mars; Faye Dunaway eventually acted out that role.


Up the Sandbox was one of the first films to explore women's changing roles during the sexual revolution of the early 1970s. A number of critics praised Streisand's performance. According to Pauline Kael, "Barbra Streisand [had] never seemed so radiant as in this joyful mess, taken from the Anne Richardson Roiphe novel and directed by Irvin Kershner. The picture is full of knockabout urban humor[...]".[4]
Roger Ebert, who gave the film three out of four stars, also had nothing but praise for her in his review: "This is a Barbra Streisand movie, and so we know the central character won't (can't) be stereotyped; nothing even remotely like Streisand has existed in movies before. [...]She does not give us a liberated woman, or even a woman working in some organized way toward liberation. Instead, she gives us a woman who feels free to be herself, no matter what anyone thinks. This is a kind of woman, come to think of it, who is rare in American movies[...]".[5]

But audiences avoided Up The Sandbox, and it proved to be one of her lowest-grossing films.

Up The Sandbox was released in a Region 1 DVD on October 5, 2004 as a part of the Barbra Streisand Collection.

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