Barbra Streisand wore a human hair wig, styled in a classic bob with wispy bangs in “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” (1970). This hair style truly embodied the youthful, exuberant and adorable vibe that the character of Daisy Gamble projected throughout the film. Barbra was no stranger to wearing wigs and hairpieces during this time. She had done so in her previous films, as well as to give her hair a dramatic boost for appearances and concerts. Since Streisand was playing two characters in Clear Day, and one in period costume, it made perfect sense to use wigs and hairpieces to create a recognizable difference between the two characters. While playing Melinda, the front portion of Streisand’s natural hair was blended into pieces and falls to create the voluminous period hairstyles. Frederick Glaser (1929-2010) styled Barbra’s hair and wigs for Clear Day and created the iconic looks we still admire today. Glaser had met Barbra Streisand early in her career, and was responsible for many of her most memorable 1960’s hairstyles.
Hollywood has a long history of utilizing human hair wigs in film. Even John Wayne wore one in every film he made from 1948 onward. There are multiple benefits of having actors wear a wig that mimics their natural hair while filming. The biggest one is for continuity. Having a wig to reset and style daily can be far easier than styling actual human hair, which has so many variables and is susceptible to damage from over-styling. Additionally wigs can make re-shoots far easier, especially if some time has gone by and the actor has changed their hair color or style.
Today, the majority of wigs used on film are made using HD film lace. This extends to the front of the forehead and makes the transition from skin to the hairline undetectable. Full lace wigs can be parted in any direction and styled in the same way human hair is. Their wig cap imitates the scalp perfectly.
To create a custom human hair wig, an actor’s head will be carefully measured, and the hairline reproduced as closely as possible. These are typically hand-knotted, strand by strand, in an incredibly time-consuming process called ventilation. This is why custom human hair wigs for film can run anywhere from $4,000-$6,000.
More actors wear wigs in film than audiences ever notice. This makes them successful, since the goal of a quality wig is that it should be undetectable. One recent film that heavily used human hair wigs was 2019’s Downton Abbey. Their hair department head Anne Oldham told Vulture that “All of the leads had their own bespoke wigs that were made exactly for them — all fitted for the color and the texture. You’d always do that for leads, anyway, but there are lots of leads in Downton. When they all went home at night, we could dress and prepare the wigs accordingly before they came back the next day. It was also essential to capture what a generational family looks like. If you sit down with your mother and your grandmother and your sister around a table, you’ll see many different styles and personalities. With period pieces, if you’re not careful, the hair can all start to look the same. So we’re very conscious that everyone had their own look. I hope that when someone is watching Downton, they might go, That’s a nice hairstyle. I don’t want them going, That’s a nice wig. That’s my worst nightmare — someone identifying a wig in a shot.”
The iconic Daisy Gamble wig from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever was put up for auction in 2009 to benefit The Streisand Foundation. Estimated to go for between $300-$500, it exceeded expectations and sold for $3,500.00. I hope whomever owns it today wears it to do their gardening!