Sunday, July 16, 2006

On this Date

I came upon Barbara Stanwyck by going backwards. My first memory of her was as Victoria Barkley, matriarch of TV’s “The Big Valley”. It was a bit of a revelation when I became a cinephile and started to see her at the height of her powers, in stuff like “The Lady Eve”, “Meet John Doe”, “Stella Dallas”, “Sorry, Wrong Number”, etc.

The above photo is from 1941’s “Ball of Fire”, the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs send-up directed by Howard Hawks and written by one Billy Wilder. Barbara owned the film as the singer and mob moll Sugerpuss O’Shea, but it was her next Wilder script that proved to be her touchstone role – as Phyllis Dietrichson in “Double Indemnity”. When I watch that film, I’m always amazed at the different notes that she hits – Sexy, conniving, vulnerable, strong.

And yes, I know those last two are contradictory.

Barbara Stanwyck was born on this date in 1907.

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