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December Star of the Month: BARBARA STANWYCK

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I was really looking forward to seeing The Other Love. It's a glamorous '40s melodrama. It's one of seven Stanwyck films playing this month I haven't seen yet. I was bummed to find out the film was being replace by My Reputation in Canada. Did anyone watch it? Is it as good as the description sounds?

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My personal trifecta of classic actresses is Stanwyck, Davis and Crawford. That doesn't mean I don't love Bergman and Taylor and Irene Dunne (who comes close to being in the triune) and both Hepburns, it just means that those three sum up what great female roles used to be all about to me.

 

*And when it comes to perfection on a large, long-term scale, Stanwyck has them all beat.* In her whole filmography- which I admit is extensive and I have not seen all of the titles- there is only *one underwhelming performance I can think of:* in George Stevens' dishwater dull 1935(6?) picture Annie Oakley.

 

But that's it, there's not another performance of hers I can think of where she's off-the-mark, not quite there, not giving you 110% the whole time but making it look like no effort at all. The picture might not be as good as it could be- Clash By Night, Jeopardy!, The File on Thelma Jordan, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, Meet John Doe, Crime of Passion, My Reputation, The Night Walker- but she's *great.* She deserved outright Oscars for Ball of Fire and Double Indemnity, she does nomination-worthy work in Miracle Woman, Bitter Tea of General Yen, Baby Face, Meet John Doe, The Lady Eve, Martha Ivers, The Furies, Stella Dallas, No Man of Her Own and even though she doesn't have a great role in Sorry, Wrong Number, I'll go along with that one too.

 

Really, other than Annie Oakley, I can't think of another film in which she's off her game.

 

I love Bette, but I don't think she's at her best in The Corn is Green, Pocketful of Miracles, The Bride Came COD, Sweet Charlotte and kindasorta Mr. Skeffington.

 

 

I love Joan, but some of her thirties stuff is dreadful and- while inarguably entertaining- her work in numerous post-1950 ventures is of scattershot quality.

 

 

I love Olivia DeHavilland but she's terrible in Lady in a Cage and Sweet Charlotte; she's not terrfic in They Died with their Boots On and Government Girl or The Swarm but that's not entirely her fault. I like Joan Fontaine, but agree that she played the "meek little thing" card a lot, Greer Garson can be stuffy, Liz Taylor shrill, I hate it when Roz Russell decides she doesn't want to be fun...I don't think Audrey Hepburn is properly showcased in Paris When it Sizzles, and I think her work in Wait Until Dark and Sabrina could be better (sacrilidge, I know!.) As for the other Hepburn, there's Spitfire and (apparently) The Iron Petticoat and I don't like her in Guess Who's Coming or Dragonseed. I also recall not caring much for Morning Glory, but it's been a looooong time since I saw it. Norma Shearer can be melodramatic, Claudette Colbert sometimes put on the autopilot...

 

 

Maybe Bergman and Vivien Leigh come close/edge Stanwyck out when it comes to always being great, *but they did a lot fewer pictures than she did*.

 

 

So for the sheer volume of her filmography: Stanwyck really deserves some credit for being about the damn best that she could 99.99% of the time.

 

 

*ps- I love every actress I listed in this post. Don't think I'm hating.*

 

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Dec 9, 2012 1:49 PM

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Dec 9, 2012 1:55 PM

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Dec 9, 2012 1:58 PM

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Well that about covers it, Addison! For me, and I'm in the minority here, Babs is a showgirl who made good. I like so many of her films, but I don't think she's a great actress. I watched her most recently in Golden Boy -- I found many of her gestures false and her performance merely adequate. But I know, I know, she is queen of this board!

 

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*I was really looking forward to seeing The Other Love. It's a glamorous '40s melodrama. It's one of seven Stanwyck films playing this month I haven't seen yet. I was bummed to find out the film was being replace by My Reputation in Canada. Did anyone watch it? Is it as good as the description sounds?*

 

Though "The Other Love" is a good film, I think "My Reputation" is much better. Better writing, and Stanwyck has a lot more to do in it, more chances for strong emotional expression. The scene where she runs to Ginna Abbott's house and has a meltdown is a highlight (in my opinion). "My Rep" was also a favorite of Barbara's.

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I don't see much (if anything), I disagree with in what you posted; My favorites, in order are Davis, Stanwyck, than DeHavliland. Than, since I'm such a fan of 30s comedies, I go with Lombard and Arthur. Then the two Hepburns, than Crawford, Ros Russell and Loy.

 

Thus while I tend to agree Babs never gave a poor performance (and Bette did), the top Bette movies just move me more than those of Babs and my favorite Babs movies are comedies (Ball and Eve) and the comic parts of Meet John Doe.

 

 

 

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You must be the only person on earth who doesn't think BS is a great actress. The general consensus is that she may have been the most versatile and greatest screen actress. Hardly anyone had her range in so many different roles and hardly anyone seemed more natural onscreen. Her reputation, unlike many, has only risen in the 23 years since her death. She is the greatest.

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LOL! If by earth you mean this board, then yes, I'm just about the only one (though actually there are a few others). Not that this is a measure of excellence, but she never won an Oscar, so presumably the voters during the years she was nominated didn't think she was the best (though I repeat, that's really not a good measure of excellence).

 

BS played a fairly wide variety of roles, yes; but I don't necessarily think she played many of them that well, or that there was much variety in her interpretations. But I enjoy her performances and LOVE many of her movies!

 

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> {quote:title=Swithin wrote:}{quote}LOL! Not that this is a measure of excellence, but *she never won an Oscar,* so presumably the voters during the years she was nominated didn't think she was the best (though I repeat, that's really not a good measure of excellence).

Not really at all, no.

 

I think it's more that Stanwyck, like the similarly Oscarless Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, was pretty much a free-lance artist *without a powerful studio to back her up.* Thus she was not seen as an asset to many and was doubtlessly resented by others. The four actresses she lost Oscars to were all under contract to a big studio or producer- MGM, RKO, Selznick, Warner's...

 

 

Barbara didn't have that big-studio push that it took/takes to put you in the winner's circle.

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Dec 10, 2012 2:59 PM

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Dec 10, 2012 3:01 PM

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Of course I knew about the honorary Oscar, I almost put it in my post, just to save someone mentioning it! Not the same as the real thing, of course. Despite the studio backing her up issue, there were actors without that backing who won Oscars. And besides -- Luise Rainer won for The Good Earth in a year when MGM had two best actress nominees -- the other being Garbo for Camille. BS was pretty good in Stella Dallas that year.

 

But I do understand that this is just my opinion. I just don't think BS is as good as people on this board do. But I love many of her movies and enjoy her performances!

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*But I do understand that this is just my opinion. I just don't think BS is as good as people on this board do. But I love many of her movies and enjoy her performances!*

 

Sounds good to me! You have just as much of a right as anyone else here to say what you think. :)

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Except for perhaps her very early days, I dont think, Stanwyck had an exclusive contract with any studio. She would make multi-picture deals (often with several studios during the same time period) so she wasnt considered a studio regular (I dont think it's a co-incidence that free lancers like Dunne and Grant went home Oscar-less as well). In the early 30s she made films for Columbia and Warners. Later with RKO and Paramount. I dont think she was ever exclusive with one studio (if anyone can prove me wrong, go ahead....)

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Good point, about free-lancers having a tougher time winning Oscars. I never thought of that. Was that an inducement for actors to affilate with studios?

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My personal trifecta of classic actresses is Stanwyck, Davis and Crawford.

 

Addison, you're not so DeWitless at all. You even put them in the right order.

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A better gauge of excellence in awards-giving may be the New York Film Critics. Garbo won that twice, including in 1938, when Rainer won the Oscar for which Stanwyck and Garbo had also been nominated. Stanwyck never won a NYFC award.

 

Check out this list of NYFC winners, which includes (in addition to Davis, et. al.), Agnes Moorehead, Ida Lupino, Margaret Sullavan, Deborah Kerr, and Celia Johnson:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Film_Critics_Circle_Award_for_Best_Actress

 

One big point in the NYFC's favor, in my VERY humble opinion: In 1939, they picked Wuthering Heights as best film, over GWTW. Now that took nerve!

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I didn't look through the past pages of this thread so I don't know if this has been posted or not.

 

Tonight I learned that the Barbara Stanwyck TV mini-series THE THORN BIRDS is running on the Encore Channel this week. It began tonight. Additional episodes are scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights - all starting at 8pm ET/PT.

 

All of the episodes will run consecutively this Sunday morning/afternoon starting at 10am ET/PT.

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I have been following these boards for a while, especially where it concerns actors I like, hope I am not coming in too strong, but felt compelled to make my first appearance on this thread {font:Wingdings}J{font}. In the actress department, I don’t have a trifecta of actresses, it’s mostly a duo, Stanwyck and Kate Hepburn, and then there’s Ingrid Bergman, Deborah Kerr, Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard, Judy Garland, Joan Crawford, and Audrey Hepburn in no particular order. But overall, I thoroughly enjoy and admire classic films in all shapes and forms.

 

AddisonDeWitless, I could not agree with you more on Stanwyck. We even agree on the films where she was not 100%. I would add Executive Suite to Annie Oakley, I dislike both films, and Stanwyck does not manage to elevate either of them. I particularly agree on how you compare apples to apples. How you put into consideration how actresses did in their bad films (we know a decent actress is supposed to be good in good films) and the depth of their range.

 

Even though I personally do not like Davis, the actress (her mannerisms are very distracting to me), I adore her off-screen persona and I agree that Davis had an amazing range, she was able to make her bad films entertaining, and she is up there in the legend department. However, she lacked Stanwyck’s comedic range. Kate Hepburn lacked Stanwyck’s and Davis’ range in playing unsympathetic characters, and she certainly did not manage to elevate her bad films, they are simply unwatchable…(A Woman Rebels, Spitfire, The Little Minister, Christopher Strong, Break of Hearts, Mary of Scotland, Dragon Seed, Song of Love, Sea of Grass, Iron Petticoat…to name the most notable). Joan Crawford is a very compelling actress in the right kind of roles, I thoroughly enjoy her mid-40s to early 50s work, but she simply did too many awful movies in her MGM years and also lacked range as comedian.

 

 

If one adds the fact that Stanwyck was able to play the lead in westerns, that settles it, her range is simply astonishing, and it is hard for me to find a Stanwyck movie I do not enjoy.

 

 

I love Douglas Sirk’s words on Stanwyck as a person and her acting style:

 

 

 

“She impressed me all the time as someone who had a great experience, someone who had really been touched deeply by life in some way. Because she had depth as a person. That is exactly what we see on the screen and that is why she’s a great star. ..And yet she’s so discreet, she gets every point, every nuance without hitting on anything too heavily. And there is such an amazing tragic stillness about her at the same time. She never steps out of it, and she never puts it on. But it is always there, this deep melancholy in her presence. There is nothing the least bit phony in her performances, she isn't capable of phony. I think she’s more expressive and resonant than any other actress.”

 

Edited by: LadyE on Dec 11, 2012 3:11 AM

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LadyE:

 

Welcome to the boards. Great first post. You expressed concisely and articulately your reasons for having Barbara Stanwyck so high on your list of favorites. She too is one of my absolute favorites (higher than the better known Davis or Crawford IMHO), as well as many of the others here on these boards. Again welcome.

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I've never sat through all of Executive Suite, something about it is so dry and sterile.

 

I *really wonder* why it is that Stanwyck is such an uninteresting Annie Oakley. Jean Arthur and Gene Tierney were also miscast in westerns of their own- Jean doesn't look too happy to be in The Plainsman, but she gives it her patented "Jean Arthur all"; Gene Tierney is awful in Belle Star, but she's trying- quite visibly- and still I respect effort even when it is failed.

 

...And there is, of course, the Kabuki-like triumph of CRAWFORD in Johnny Guitar.

 

 

*But Stanwyck is holding something back in Annie Oakley and I don't know why.* She's fine in her other westerns, BTW- just the right venue for her patented steely glare and tough-talking, passionate types. Would love to be able to see Cattle Queen of Montana.

 

 

Annie Oakley was directed by George Stevens, who directed plenty of other actors to Oscar nominations and wins, although I'm not really a fan of his pictures besides Gunga Din.

 

 

Oh, and in regards to K. Hepburn's failure, I *really like* Christopher Strong !!!!!!! I saw it in full on u-yay ube-tay a month or so ago *and loved it.* A *really inn-teresting pre-code.*

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Dec 11, 2012 10:31 AM

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Just my opinion, of course, but I thought "Annie Oakley" was a little better than the 3 films she made before that, "The Secret Bride", "The Woman in Red" and "Red Salute" (I saw these films once and was bored to tears). I agree on "Executive Suite".

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