Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman (Hollywood Legends Series)
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Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990) rose from the ranks of chorus girl to become one of Hollywood’s most talented leading women-and America’s highest paid woman in the mid-1940s. Shuttled among foster homes as a child, she took a number of low-wage jobs while she determinedly made the connections that landed her in successful Broadway productions. Stanwyck then acted in a stream of high-quality films from the 1930s through the 1950s. Directors such as Cecil B. DeMille, Fritz Lang, and Frank Capra treasured her particular magic. A four-time Academy Award nominee, winner of three Emmys and a Golden Globe, she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy.
Dan Callahan considers both Stanwyck’s life and her art, exploring her seminal collaborations with Capra in such great films as Ladies of Leisure, The Miracle Woman, and The Bitter Tea of General Yen; her Pre-Code movies Night Nurse and Baby Face; and her classic roles in Stella Dallas, Remember the Night, The Lady Eve, and Double Indemnity. After making more than eighty films in Hollywood, she revived her career by turning to television, where her role in the 1960s series The Big Valley renewed her immense popularity.
Callahan examines Stanwyck’s career in relation to the directors she worked with and the genres she worked in, leading up to her late-career triumphs in two films directed by Douglas Sirk, All I Desire and There’s Always Tomorrow, and two outrageous westerns, The Furies and Forty Guns. The book positions Stanwyck where she belongs-at the very top of her profession-and offers a close, sympathetic reading of her performances in all their range and complexity.
unwelcome direction as Helen decides to give up her practice to be a “good wife,” but it quickly gets back on track for a final scene that lets us see that Peter understands how important his wife’s work is to her. Christmas in Connecticut (1945) is the sort of holiday movie that seems to have been made as bland as possible so that audiences can watch it after stuffing themselves with turkey and cranberry sauce. The movie revolves around a single, entirely predictable situation: Stanwyck’s city
Phillobrown in the book, and in the Stanwyck version). The town gossips see Bennett’s Stella cavorting with Ed Munn (Jean Hersholt) and mistakenly think the two are sleeping together, just as in the book, but Bennett gives you no sense of Stella’s need for male attention. She plays a few of her scenes too comedically, and when the big moments come, she throws her head back and bugs her eyes to indicate grief, even if she does let herself go straight to flabby, straw-haired hell physically. King
without moving her face at all. She doesn’t even have a verifiable expression in her eyes, yet she somehow gets across exactly what Julia is experiencing and then closes her eyes, not fast, but not slow, as if a curtain is being lowered. Eleanor Parker was originally set to play this part, and if she had, she would have torn the scenery and maybe even the whole film itself to shreds, whereas Stanwyck has only to stare and smolder to place a whole blasted life right in your lap. Foch and March do
you have to take the bitter with the sour. Critical opinion on Wilder has always fluctuated, mainly because it hinges on these highly subjective questions of taste, on deciding when he goes too far or when he doesn’t go far enough. For the first movie he wrote for Stanwyck, Ball of Fire (1941), Wilder gleefully stresses what he sees as the vulgarity in her character, and she rises to the bait while maintaining an untouchable sort of shrewdness. Whatever his faults, Wilder had a keen talent for
once again shows his talent for picking just the right character names. In the book, Phyllis is “maybe thirty-one or -two, with a sweet face, light blue eyes, and dusty blonde hair.” Though she has “a washed-out look,” Huff sees that “[u]nder those blue pajamas was a shape to set a man nuts.” So, in Cain’s book, we have a slightly faded dish with a great bod. Not Stanwyck, by any means; more like Veronica Lake as she was in 1952 or 1953. “I like tea,” says Cain’s rather haughty Phyllis. “It