Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Barbara Stanwyck at 100

For many, Barbara Stanwyck epitomizes pre-code film: her portrayals of hard-edged, strong women who were not afraid to use their sexuality to get ahead in the world most definitely contributed to stricter enforcement of the Hays Code starting in 1934. The fact is, Stanwyck remained a unique presence in American film and television in a career spanning over 50 years. Though one could argue that she often played variations on the "tough cookie" role, her range was quite extraordinary - film noir ("Double Indemnity," "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers"), westerns ("Forty Guns," "The Big Valley"), comedy ("The Lady Eve," "Ball of Fire"), tearjerkers ("Stella Dallas"), thrillers ("Sorry, Wrong Number"),and drama ("Meet John Doe").

Many repertory film theatres are running Stanwyck tributes this year in honor of the 100th anniversary of her birth (July 16th, 1907). Besides the just-wrapped tribute at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a lengthy series is running at the UCLA Film and Television Archive through June 16th. If you are not familiar with her trademark raw emotion and take-no-prisoners demeanor, get to know Barbara by checking her out on the big screen or on DVD, where she is fairly well represented.

The New Yorker's Anthony Lane does a nice job of summing up Stanwyck's allure in this recent "A Critic at Large" piece.