The Lady Barbara
Not content with spending every Thursday evening reliving theHistory of World Cinema, I spent last Sunday on one of David Stratton’s complementary “study days”, wherein we spend no less than 10 hours looking at the work of a particular artist.
This time it was the splendid actress Barbara Stanwyck, who was a big star in her day but, judging by a few recent conversations with friends, is largely forgotten by non-film buffs.
The day suggested that her greatest asset was flexibility. We watched four films in full including an amusingly lurid sex drama, a paranoid melodrama,a turned-up-to-11 feminist western and one of the great rom-coms. That doesn’t include her most famous role as a femme fatale in Double Indemnity.
She was a contemporary of other greats including Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and (my favourite actress) Katherine Hepburn. These women were all A-listers who shared the quality of always looking smarter than anyone else in shot. To find equivalents today, for example Catherine Keener, you have to drop quite a way down the pecking order. What a loss.