Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

STANWYCK OR DAVIS? BOTH? NEITHER?


Recommended Posts

For me it's huge fun to figure out which of these is my absolute favorite Classic Age actress. 

Stanwyck  had that ultra-long career, excelling at both drama and comedy.  Of course, the usual accolades go to "Double Indemnity", and all those great showy parts.   I love her in something like Siodmak's downbeat "The File on Thelma Jordon",   in "......Martha Ivers" ,  in late noir "Crime of Passion",   in "Clash by Night".

And Bette, love her as well.  Thinking of her in restrained "Winter Meeting",  and utterly reckless   "Dangerous".    Scores of other roles.

Feel guilty being a teensy bit more partial to Stanwyck, but really it's a constant see-saw.

Not really a Hepburn fan, although she's terrific in the right context, but don't go out of my way to see her.   My third favorite after Stanwyck and Davis is Claudette Colbert, for the 'lightness' of everything she did.

I ask--  Stanwyck, or Davis?   Both, or neither?   Why?   Your top two, or three?

    

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

They're all good in their own way.

I think Claudette had the most prestigious career because she was able to avoid "B" films and stayed away from low-budget television productions. She was able to maintain her status as a glamorous star, even into old age.

Here she is in the lavish 1987 miniseries The Two Mrs. Grenvilles.

eca260d9610a789c3051774f499813dc

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

For me it's definitely Davis by a long shot. I enjoy many of Stanwyck's movies and performances, but I don't think she's in the same league. There are many other actresses from the classic era whom I love, like the great Kate, etc. But for me, Stanwyck is strictly second tier.

I'd like to have seen Stanwyck in her early Ziegfeld Follies performances, where she probably excelled.

portrait-of-barbara-stanwyck-florence-va

 

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

Agreed, Claudette was magnifique, TOPBILLED.   I'm not so much familiar with her later career--  although, you'd read about her as someone who maintained a fairly high, but dignified social profile, flitting from New York to her home in the Caribbean.  She was so stylish, to the end. 

But early on, such a distinctive screen presence.  Loved her in "Midnight",   where I guess I first noticed that delicious "frothy" quality she had.  Humor.  There was an appreciative laugh, lurking in the back of her throat, even in serious weepers like "Since You Went Away".    Love the way she bantered with Joseph Cotten in that.  Timeless, effervescent Claudette!

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I absolutely love both Stanwyck and Davis - two of the greatest actresses of classic movies.  I just saw "All About Eve" again on TCM.  I loved Davis as the mature professional who in fact wins over her nasty predator Eve.  I love Bette showing that strength of personality can win over superficial beauty.  I can't imagine this film without her.  I also love Davis in one of her earlier roles "Of Human Bondage" (1934) based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham about a callous, manipulative waitress.  Bette was not afraid of parts where she didn't look glamorous or she wasn't a good girl.  Stanwyck is amazing in more comedic roles such as Ball of Fire, The Lady Eve or Christmas in Connecticut but she also played wonderfully in dramatic roles such as "Stella Davis" or "Double Indemnity".  Stanwyck had a really strong screen presence and realistic quality to her performances.  I don't judge either of these actresses as being less great because they accepted some roles where they didn't appear glamorous later in life.  I look at the breadth of their accomplishments and careers.

image.jpeg.3603843af372b8632a3ffa4d1f0a3b72.jpeg    image.jpeg.3840efdec4b1c528718930418950551b.jpeg    Close-Up on "Ball of Fire": Screwball Classic Skewers Stuffiness with  Snappy Slang on Notebook | MUBI    image.jpeg.4a863926604f51d20dda25252c129863.jpeg

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, that's interesting, SWITHIN,  I'd never consider Stanwyck  second tier.   There's too much substance there, for me at least.   Authentic, tautly vibrant, but not brittle. 

But agree with you on Bette's merits--  top drawer.     I do wish she hadn't made the more "lurid" things later on.  That's controversial I guess, b/c some people defend that.  But I'm not fond of campy Bette.

That photo of Stanwyck is amusing because she seems so much "greener", and unpolished and everything, than her later image!

Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, lilypond said:

Agreed, Claudette was magnifique, TOPBILLED.   I'm not so much familiar with her later career--  although, you'd read about her as someone who maintained a fairly high, but dignified social profile, flitting from New York to her home in the Caribbean.  She was so stylish, to the end. 

But early on, such a distinctive screen presence.  Loved her in "Midnight",   where I guess I first noticed that delicious "frothy" quality she had.  Humor.  There was an appreciative laugh, lurking in the back of her throat, even in serious weepers like "Since You Went Away".    Love the way she bantered with Joseph Cotten in that.  Timeless, effervescent Claudette!

I read somewhere that Claudette told her girlfriend she wanted to die at home and that she wanted her face to be touched up with her favorite makeup so she looked good in the morgue. THAT is how a star goes out.

Seriously, I think playing Cleopatra changed her. She had a certain image to uphold and she was never going to be run of the mill. Just run of the DeMille.

  • Like 1
  • Haha 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

You make excellent points, TOTO.    I'm more in your camp, suspended in awed admiration of both Davis and Stanwyck.  To me, they pretty much represent the pinnacle.   Oh, I do love a few select others--  Ida Lupino for one.  And the aforementioned Claudette.

By the way, I don't object to Bette being unglamorous in some later roles.  But I felt in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" for example,  that, somehow, it went too far.   Yet, in "Human Bondage",  in which she fearlessly let us into the unbeautiful aspects of that character, it was right, and brilliant.  It was  a "controlled" energy, I guess, as opposed to what I felt in her later.   I know many don't agree with me!    

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, lilypond said:

Oh, that's interesting, SWITHIN,  I'd never consider Stanwyck  second tier.   There's too much substance there, for me at least.   Authentic, tautly vibrant, but not brittle. 

But agree with you on Bette's merits--  top drawer.     I do wish she hadn't made the more "lurid" things later on.  That's controversial I guess, b/c some people defend that.  But I'm not fond of campy Bette.

That photo of Stanwyck is amusing because she seems so much "greener", and unpolished and everything, than her later image!

I like your point about "greener," "unpolished," etc. That's how I've seen her throughout her career, and perhaps it adds to the quality of some of her performances, e.g. Baby Face, Stella Dallas, etc. But even as the wealthy Julia Treadway in Executive Suite,  BS never quite transcends that chorus girl for me. But I like her and her movies, in general.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Both, please! They are such different performers, and they give rather distinct kinds of pleasure. Stanwyck is both more consistent and more "naturalistic," I suppose: always believable and engaging, never overplaying or underplaying anything--she always seems to find exactly the tone the material requires.  (Although this may also help explain why she was comparatively underrated until more recently, and never won an Oscar.) She made The Lady Eve, Meet John Doe, and Ball of Fire all in the same year--the first of which is one of my favorite performances in any film comedy.

Bette Davis obviously had a more "theatrical" approach, and thus was well-suited to playing characters who were themselves self-dramatizing (Of Human Bondage, Jezebel, The Little Foxes, All About Eve), but as you point out she could also convincingly play more restrained roles without any hint of dullness (e.g. in The Catered Affair). At her best, she has such a galvanizing energy, such a thorough understanding of her character's motivations, and such an alert intelligence, that she is mesmerizing to watch.

I suppose if you forced me to "choose," I might acknowledge that Stanwyck's reliability also meant there were fewer enormous highs and lows throughout her career: she rarely exhibited quite the same level of daring, the same sort of extreme commitment to unsympathetic roles (and in lesser films, the sheer will to transcend the limitations of the material itself) that yielded some of Davis's more brilliant achievements. But this is a somewhat unfair comparison to make, since Davis was rather unique in that regard, at least among American film actresses of that era.  And all actors have certain limitations--comedy was definitely not Davis's strong suit, for example.

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

I kind of assumed viewing the thread topic that this thread would be overwhelmingly pro-Stanwyck, as I feel that I've seen a fairly strong and consistent anti-Davis sentiment around here. I love both actresses. They're among my favorites of all time. I honestly don't know if I could pick one over the other. Davis was completely fearless in the roles she chose. If her character was unsympathetic or unattractive, so be it, as long as it afforded her a great acting opportunity. Stanwyck excelled at the broad roles - very often the cold but hilarious cynic who would melt and show pathos when the opportunity for love presented itself. But also if she needed to play outright unsympathetic, she was great at that, too.  I suppose you could say late-career Davis devolved into self-parody, although there was a certain stylistic genius to those career decisions as well. Stanwyck mostly went the TV route late -career, which is probably outside the purview of these message boards, althought I have to say one of the first things I ever saw her in as a young man was the first episode of the TV mini-series The Thorn Birds, in which she blew me away and made me curious about what else she had done. 

This is not really a thread about her, but I dig Claudette Colbert too.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

I love both ladies, but I'd give the edge to Bette Davis as I love the films she made slightly more.  But don't get me wrong, I do love Barbara Stanwyck.

My top 5:

(based on personal preference, not any indication of my perception of one actress' ability over another)

1. Lucille Ball

2. Bette Davis

3. Katharine Hepburn

4. Barbara Stanwyck

5. Jean Arthur

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I love both Bette Davis & Barbara Stanwyck's career performances and will watch any movie with their names in the credits.  Both were adept at comedy and carrying strong dramas. While Bette often stars in more intense dramas than Babs, don't forget her comedic role in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER that includes my very favorite Bette Davis gesture - gleefully drop kicking Ann Sheridan's hat out the door.

Both men & women are attracted to both actresses, but men seem to find Stanwyck more desirable & sexier than Bette Davis. I also think that's why Kate Hepburn is not quite as popular, she doesn't come across as soft & sexy for some. I wonder if much of that has to do with some of the roles they played, possibly Stanwyck was more open to play sexpots like in BALL OF FIRE than Bette was.

It's a lesson in good career choices. Most classic film newbies are SHOCKED when they see how beautiful Bette Davis was when young because they only think of her later years, especially as Baby Jane Hudson.

Wow:

t-bette-davis-birthday-post.jpg

But Stanwyck pretty much stayed away from those kind of schlock movies, in the 60's she could be seen in roles like THE BIG VALLEY. Look at how natural Stanwyck looks in her early years compared to coiffed Davis above.

d40d49e5c3677d48c3c90adfc7a9d050.jpg

I'm convinced "sex appeal" is what keeps Katherine Hepburn's general popularity down, while has elevated Audrey Hepburn to cult status. Audrey (and Marilyn for that matter) always give great performances but it is her beauty, sex appeal that made her a star.

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, lilypond said:

I ask--  Stanwyck, or Davis?   Both, or neither?   Why?   Your top two, or three?

I go with Bette Davis, probably because I have seen and liked more of her films:

Dark Victory

Now, Voyager

Jezebel

The Letter

All About Eve

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane

I liked Stanwyck too, though I can only think of two films I really loved off the top of my head

Ball Of Fire

Double Indemnity

My top three_

Bette Davis

Audrey Hepburn

Natalie Wood

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh man, this is like Sophie's choice, but after much thought I have to give Stanwyck a slight edge for versatility. I'm more drawn to Davis as an actress, but Stanwyck could hold her own in the **** department and also play a romantic lead that Davis wasn't known for. In Fritz Lang's Clash By Night for example she and Robert Ryan almost burned down the house. I loved the way she had her other hand inside his undershirt.  Just a little extra touch you don't see everyday in these films.  As much as I love Bette I can't picture her in the same type of situation.

113b.jpg.d50f502f7c8ca12e55c45d3e18dbeb6d.jpg

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, TopBilled said:

They're all good in their own way.

I think Claudette had the most prestigious career because she was able to avoid "B" films and stayed away from low-budget television productions. She was able to maintain her status as a glamorous star, even into old age.

Here she is in the lavish 1987 miniseries The Two Mrs. Grenvilles.

eca260d9610a789c3051774f499813dc

Oddly, on my PC I saw only a link to the photo, and when I clicked on it I only saw a picture of a cat.  (?)   But when I "quoted" that post, THEN the photo  you posted showed up!  

As to the Stanwyck/Davis query.....

I haven't seen Stanwyck in as many "meaty" roles as Bette, so comparison for me is difficult.   But then that's another "eye of beholder/semantics" issue.  But I'll try to simplify....

I don't think Bette could have given the justice that Babs did in many of her roles, and vice/versa.  

Sepiatone

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

FAUSTERLITZ,   what a closely and persuasively reasoned analysis of the two of them--  love it and agree with most.  

SPEEDRACERS,  glad you mentioned Jean Arthur.   She's on my supplementary, next level-list with Claudette and Ida.   Jean Arthur,  Depression-era angel exhorting the despairing Jimmy Stewart, in that voice, and with that spunk (unlike Lew Grant, I love spunk),  immortal.  I'm so glad she had that late-career role in "Shane" too, bittersweet and quietly luminous.

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, lilypond said:

FAUSTERLITZ,   what a closely and persuasively reasoned analysis of the two of them--  love it and agree with most.  

SPEEDRACERS,  glad you mentioned Jean Arthur.   She's on my supplementary, next level-list with Claudette and Ida.   Jean Arthur,  Depression-era angel exhorting the despairing Jimmy Stewart, in that voice, and with that spunk (unlike Lew Grant, I love spunk),  immortal.  I'm so glad she had that late-career role in "Shane" too, bittersweet and quietly luminous.

Meant "LOU" did you?  ;) 

Sepiatone

  • Thanks 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, lilypond said:

My third favorite after Stanwyck and Davis is Claudette Colbert, for the 'lightness' of everything she did.

But only her left side.

  • Like 1
  • Haha 7
Link to post
Share on other sites

I prefer both.   Love Stanwyck in her comedies, my favorite being her performance as Jean Harrington in The Lady Eve.  Also laughed at her in Remember the Night, Ball of Fire and Christmas in Connecticut.  Somewhere in the past, I read that Bette Davis turned down Connecticut opening the door for another great Stanwyck performance.  Also Stanwyck was born for film noir as witnessed in Double Indemnity, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Sorry Wrong Number, The File on Thelma Jordan.  Plus romantic dramas like My Reputation.

Favorite Bette Davis performance is her Margo Channing in All About Eve.  Also her earlier dramas--Of Human Bondage, Jezebel, Dark Victory, The Letter, The Little Foxes, Now Voyager, Mr. Skeffington.

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, glad you mentioned "The Letter" ,   FILMNOIRGUY.     I can't think of a more 'ideal' performance out of Bette.   Great support from the direction and from peerless Herbert Marshall, and let's see, was it James Stephenson (not sure of his name, but he was so good).  But Bette was pitch-perfect, divine.

One of the things I like about Stanwyck is that unforced, everywoman quality.   It elevates even her 'slighter' roles, like in "Witness to Murder",  with George Sanders and Gary Merrill.   What a nifty little thriller that is.  Hey, here we meet the true cross-pollination of Davis and Stanwyck-- in "Witness to Murder",   Stanwyck's love interest is Bette's real-life ex,  Merrill....   

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, lilypond said:

You make excellent points, TOTO.    I'm more in your camp, suspended in awed admiration of both Davis and Stanwyck.  To me, they pretty much represent the pinnacle.   Oh, I do love a few select others--  Ida Lupino for one.  And the aforementioned Claudette.

By the way, I don't object to Bette being unglamorous in some later roles.  But I felt in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" for example,  that, somehow, it went too far.   Yet, in "Human Bondage",  in which she fearlessly let us into the unbeautiful aspects of that character, it was right, and brilliant.  It was  a "controlled" energy, I guess, as opposed to what I felt in her later.   I know many don't agree with me!    

Ida Lupino was not only a great actress but one of the very few female directors of an earlier time.  She started directing in the late 40's.  It's hard to think of any other female directors at this time.  I love the noir thriller she directed "The Hitch-hiker" about a couple of fisherman on a trip who make the mistake of picking up a stranded motorist who turns out to be a sociopath.  Great suspense, characters and location shooting in this film.  I read that Lupino is considered the first female director of a film noir.

Playing the part of Baby Jane in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" is an example of Bette Davis being fearless in the roles she played.  I thought she was fantastic in the film (and creepy!).  Sometimes an actress or actor can get pigeon-holed into being a certain type if they play a particularly memorable villain but I think Bette just went for a great part in Baby Jane.  

Lupino behind the camera and scenes from "The Hitch-Hiker".

The Hitch-Hiker (1953) - Free Outdoor Screening — Senate Theater    The first film noir directed by a woman    image.jpeg.14958500515ddae51539fb91dd5ed692.jpeg

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

So true about Lupino, TOTO.   Even directing what might be considered more potentially "schlock" material, like in "The Bigamist" and "Hard, Fast and Beautiful",   she brings that little zing of hers--  a knowing talent.  And on screen herself, wow.   She did splendidly, but I wish for her that she had gotten even bigger and more roles... 

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2021 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...