Sophisticated Lady

For all that I talk about Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and all of those awesome Divas, deep down my true favorite Golden Age actress is this lady, Ms. Barbara Stanwyck. Today is her birthday, and this will be a long post, because I just worship this woman.

The reason I love Barbara is because she WASN’T a diva. She was a consummate pro who just came in, kicked ass at her job, and didn’t play all the melodrama ego games. I’ve never heard a bad thing said about Barbara Stanwyck. No on-set feuds, no enemies, no sleeping her way through every co-star and director. Raised very poor in Brooklyn, she came from rags-to-riches, but unlike many others she never let the rapid transition turn her into a nutcase. Witness this quote:

“Career is too pompous a word. It was job, and I had always felt privileged to have been paid for doing what I loved doing. Attention embarrasses me, I don’t like to be on display!”

And what a job she did! Her work is astounding. She played everything, but usually found herself with noir-ish characters, women who had done some living. Some of her hard-luck types were similar to the roles that Joan Crawford always got, but Barbara managed to infuse them with so much more realism and humanity than La Crawford ever could muster. Whether good or bad, Barbara’s characters were always FIERCE. And smart. There was always something lurking around the edges of her mouth, and the corners of her eyes…mischief, a certain cynicism, wry laughter. Whatever it was, it’s this quality that draws me to her.

I’d put her acting talent at least on par with Kate Hepburn’s, but she never quite got the accolades. She was nominated 4 times for an Oscar, but never won, only receiving an Honorary Oscar later in life. :(
She wasn’t as beautiful as many other stars, but she was sexy as hell, and she had such STYLE. I mean, LOOK at this outfit:

This photo is the epitome of everything I ever wanted to be when I grew up. Lookit those PANTS, lookit those shoes! I’d give my left arm to look this good for just one day. Barbara always looked this good. (And why don’t they make pants like that for women anymore? Some time ago I started searching for them, and the only way I could describe them was, “You know….Barbara Stanwyck pants!” I got blank looks.) All I know is, whenever I have a meeting or event and I want to look cool, competent, together, and yet still kinda hot, I ask myself: What Would Barbara Stanwyck Wear? She’s never led me wrong.

Am I done raving yet? Not really. As if Barbara wasn’t amazing enough on her own, she also managed to land the most beautiful husband in Hollywood, Robert Taylor. Now I’ve heard rumours that she was bi and he was gay and they were ‘beards’ for each other. I have no idea if that was true, but they stayed married for quite a long time by H’Wood standards, so their relationship must have been genuine on some levels. And even if it was true, I’m sure even the dykiest lesbian couldn’t object to being Robert Taylor’s wife.

Barbara managed to stay busy even late in her career, appearing in many long-running TV shows. The success of her transition from Movie Star to TV probably again had to due with her lack of Diva Behavior.

Others may be more famous, more beautiful, or have more awards, but Barbara Stanwyck will always be my personal Muse. Happy Brithday to you!

Barbara Stanwyck Movies You Must See Right Now!
Double Indemnity. This is IT. This is THE apex of film noir. And Barbara takes the Femme Fatale role and nails it like nobody ever has before or since.
Meet John Doe. Crusading journalist Barbara hooks up with Gary Cooper. (Bonus! Also stars Walter Brennan! And did I mention Gary Cooper?)
Clash By Night. Fritz Lang directs Barbara in a character-driven semi-noir about the relationships of a bunch of seedy characters. (Bonus! Also stars a very young Marilyn Monroe, who runs around in tight jeans! Guhhhh!)

For more on Barbara, visit:
Barbara Stanwyck @ ClassicMovieFavorites

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