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 asLadies of Leisure,The Miracle Woman, andThe Bitter Tea of General Yen; her Pre-Code moviesNight NurseandBaby Face; and her classic roles inStella Dallas,Remember the Night,The Lady Eve, andDouble Indemnity. After making more than eighty films in Hollywood, she revived her career by turning to television, where her role in the 1960s seriesThe Big Valleyrenewed 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 DesireandThere's Always Tomorrow, and two outrageous westerns,The FuriesandForty 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.
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