Monday, July 16, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Today is Barbara Stanwyck's 100th birthday!

Of all the leading ladies of the Hollywood's Golden Age, Barbara Stanwyck is definitely my favorite. She could play tough and tender, slapstick and woe--heck, in The Lady Eve she even fooled Henry Fonda into thinking she was two entirely different dames. She could sing and dance; she had legs so long they went all the way up to her waist, and even when playing the matriarch of a Western ranch family she sizzled--she made Linda Evans, years younger, look jejune and boring in comparison.

My favorite Stanwyck film remains Ball of Fire, where as Sugarpuss O'Shea she turns linguist Gary Cooper into her tongue-tied slavering love-slave. Stanwyck's rendition of Drum-Boogie (with Gene Krupa on match-box) puts all other versions, including Judy Garland's, to shame.

Second favorite: Lady of Burlesque, based upon a novel by Gypsy Rose Lee. Singing, dancing, murder--what's not to love?

But it's impossible to pick the definitive Standwyck performance. Glamorous murderous in Double Indemnity? Proto-Martha Stewart in Christmas in Connecticut? Neurotic bedridden murder victim in Sorry Wrong Number? Scheming slum girl in Baby Face? Perky idealistic newspaperwoman in Meet John Doe? She was in 106 films and she never gave a bad performance.

Happy Birthday, Madama Stanwyck!

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