Starring Barbara Stanwyck
Versatility, professionalism and resourcefulness made Barbara Stanwyck one of the most successful and memorable Hollywood actors of all time.
“A gutsy, self-reliant and self-assured woman whose husky voice and cool exterior usually masked a warm heart”
The New York Times
Born Ruby Stevens in working-class Brooklyn, Stanwyck had various menial jobs before proceeding, via dancing in nightclubs and on Broadway, to the silver screen and stardom. Often, her roles echoed her origins on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’; they also tended to reflect her own strength of will, independence and cool intelligence. This distinctive combination might manifest itself in a go-getter, working woman, loving mother or – after the success of Double Indemnity – a manipulative femme fatale. Mostly, however, the Stanwyck persona was far from heartless; native intuition complemented a sensitive, even passionate soul. Unsurprising, then, that she worked in many genres and with many major directors. In this first half of our two-month celebration, we focus on some of her best-known roles.
“Put me in the last fifteen minutes of a picture and I don’t care what happened before... I’ll take it in those fifteen minutes”
Comedies, melodramas, thrillers... Stanwyck adapted to any genre, sparkling with natural wit and radiating sheer presence and raw emotion. But it was the western that became increasingly important as her career progressed. She made 12 in all, and in the three screening this month she plays resourceful, confident women holding their own in a male-dominated world. In the 1950s (her final decade in cinema before she moved to TV), she defied expectations of a female star working in Hollywood by selecting roles as a freelance actor not tied to one studio, and by portraying mature women who were passionate, motivated and possessed of minds very much their own. This second part of our tribute highlights the breadth and depth of Stanwyck’s characters, whether in classics or in less familiar, rarely screened titles.
Barbara Stanwyck gets more than she bargained for as a con-artist trying to swindle a handsome millionaire (Henry Fonda).
See our Big Screen Classics at just £8.
Coming in part two in March: Annie Oakley, Union Pacific, There’s Always Tomorrow and more…
Film notes by season co-programmers Geoff Andrew and Aga Baranowska.
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