Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Lady Barbara

Of all the great female movie stars from the golden age of Hollywood, Barbara Stanwyck is probably one of the most underrated. A star almost as soon as pictures could talk, Stanwyck worked with some of the best directors of the day. Frank Capra, early in his career, starred Stanwyck in a host of ground-breaking dramas in the early 1930s, including Ladies of Leisure (1930), The Miracle Woman (1931), Forbidden (1932), and The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933), the first film shown at Radio City Music Hall.

What made Stanwyck so amazing was her versatility as an actress; she was equally adept at both comedy and drama.Today, Stanwyck is probably best remembered by movie buffs for portraying Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944). Her performance in that film set the standard for film noir femme fatales. Many dramas followed, but Stanwyck starred in some wonderful comedies in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

In 1941, Stanwyck starred in three classic films: The Lady Eve, Meet John Doe, and Ball of Fire. These films were directed by, in respective order, Preston Sturges, Frank Capra, and Howard Hawks. The latter directed her to what would be her second Academy Award Best Actress nomination. In an era that produced many female movie stars, few actresses can match the extraordinary run Stanwyck had in the early 1940s.

Barbara Stanwyck is a true film legend, not because she was a great beauty, though she was, but because she was an actress of great depth and talent.


  1. Barbara Stanwyck was wonderful. There has never been anyone else like her. In my opinion, her greatest performances were from her thirties films, especially those directed by Capra.

  2. Dear Della, I agree with you on both points, although I do think her performances in "Stella Dallas," "The Lady Eve," "Ball of Fire," and "Meet John Doe" are pretty amazing. The last three were all from 1941. Today, most actresses would be thrilled to have had three great roles in their lifetimes, never mind in one year!


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