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 as Ladies of Leisure, The Miracle Woman, and The Bitter Tea of General Yen; her Pre-Code movies Night Nurse and Baby Face; and her classic roles in Stella Dallas, Remember the Night, The Lady Eve, and Double Indemnity. After making more than eighty films in Hollywood, she revived her career by turning to television, where her role in the 1960s series The Big Valley renewed 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 Desire and There's Always Tomorrow, and two outrageous westerns, The Furies and Forty 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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Mr. Callahan's book is very good, but he is much under the sway of the willful subjectivity and slanginess of Pauline Kael. He swings free demotically, not to mention culturally, and the parabolas can get wobbly.Read Full Review of Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle... | See more reviews from WSJ online
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