Barbara Stanwyck movies
There have probably been few transformations more striking than that of Ruby Stevens of Brooklyn into Barbara Stanwyck of Hollywood – the highest-paid woman in the United States in 1944. Stanwyck, whose film career lasted from the dawn of the sound era to the mid-1960s, is Turner Classic Movies’ “Summer Under the Stars” subject on Tuesday, Aug. 19. (See Barbara Stanwyck movie schedule further below.)
Stanwyck was a performer all but incapable of a phony moment on screen. Strangely, considering the kinds of roles she played – sometimes sexy, sometimes malevolent, sometimes androgynous, sometimes all three – it’s curious that actresses like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Katharine Hepburn have maintained large followings today while Barbara Stanwyck remains well-known chiefly among Old Hollywood aficionados.
Among TCM’s Barbara Stanwyck films, which ones should you check out? The answer is: all of them. If Barbara Stanwyck is in it, then it’s worth watching no matter the plot, the direction, or the other actors.
But which Barbara Stanwyck movies would I particularly recommend?
For starters, The Locked Door, a 1929 super-rarity that is a TCM (and probably a television) premiere. Don’t expect anything great, even though the film – a remake of the Norma Talmadge silent The Sign on the Door – was directed by the capable George Fitzmaurice (The Barker, Mata Hari). After all, this is 1929, when talkies mostly creaked and screeched.
Even so, The Locked Door offers a chance to catch a very early Stanwyck, in addition to silent film stars Rod La Rocque (The Ten Commandments, Forbidden Paradise) and Betty Bronson (Peter Pan, A Kiss for Cinderella) in one of their few important talking pictures. William ‘Stage’ Boyd – not to be confused with William Boyd of the Hopalong Cassidy flicks – is also in the film. (The ‘Stage’ Boyd had a bad reputation, which sometimes got the Hopalong Boyd in trouble.)
Ten Cents a Dance (1931) should be seen because it’s also quite hard to find. It’s hardly a good film – a potboiler that isn’t nearly as saucy as one would have expected from a pre-Code movie – but both Barbara Stanwyck and her legs do look great. The handsome, suave Ricardo Cortez co-stars; the year’s Best Actor Oscar winner, Lionel Barrymore (for his dreadful performance in A Free Soul), was Ten Cents a Dance‘s uninspired director.
‘Scandalous’ Baby Face
The best pre-Coder to be shown on TCM is Alfred E. Green’s Baby Face (1933), which was considered so immoral, so disgusting, so vile, so evil, so dirty, so perverse, so depraved that it was temporarily taken out of circulation, recut, and redubbed so it could be released to the general God-fearing public without leading husbands to cheat on their mistresses, mothers to drown their children in their own milk, or dogs to bite their owners. Baby Face was restored to its glorious sinfulness a few years ago. See below.
Long thought lost, the original cut of Barbara Stanwyck’s racy pre-Production Code star vehicle Baby Face (1933), which outraged censors and prudes everywhere, was found and restored several years ago. Alongside Stanwyck, Baby Face features George Brent as her romantic interest and John Wayne in a supporting role.
The Warner Bros. production was initially released in all its risqué glory, but had to be withdrawn shortly afterwards because of vociferous protests against its blatant “immorality”: an ambitious working-class woman (that’s Barbara Stanwyck) uses her body, her sensuality, her intelligence, and her determination to ascend the corporate ladder during the Great Depression – and succeeds admirably.
Bowing to pressure, Warners reedited Baby Face and even dubbed over much of the dialogue of one character, who was transformed from the power behind the young woman’s sexual and social awareness into the film’s irritatingly moralizing voice.
In November 2004, Baby Face 1933 was screened at the London Film Festival. The uncut version of the film had been found at the Library of Congress Motion Picture Conservation Center in Dayton, Ohio.
Baby Face 1933 movie credits
Besides Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, and John Wayne – as one of the steps in Stanwyck’s corporate ladder – the 1933 Baby Face also features Donald Cook, Margaret Lindsay, Alphonse Ethier, Henry Kolker, Robert Barrat, Douglas Dumbrille, Arthur Hohl, and Theresa Harris. According to the IMDb, Toby Wing, Edward Van Sloan, Nat Pendleton, and The Crowd (1928) leading man James Murray – whose luck in Hollywood didn’t last very long – can be seen in bit parts.
Baby Face was directed by the unfairly neglected Alfred E. Green, who had been working in films since 1916. Green’s multifaceted credits include the George Arliss star vehicles Disraeli and The Green Goddess, a bunch of Bette Davis movies (e.g., Parachute Jumper, The Girl from 10th Avenue), and the 1946 blockbuster The Jolson Story, starring Best Actor Oscar nominee Larry Parks as Al Jolson. (Curiously, both Green and Jolson were Warner Bros. contract talent in the early ’30s, though The Jolson Story was actually a Columbia release.)
The Baby Face screenplay is credited to Kathryn Scola and future 20th Century Fox producer Gene Markey (Suez, The Blue Bird), from a story by future Fox honcho Darryl F. Zanuck.
Crime of Passion
Crime of Passion offers a mix of criminal activities and social commentary: The ambitious wife (Stanwyck) of an unambitious cop (Sterling Hayden) decides that her husband needs some help to make good use of all the opportunities America has to offer, even if that means a little murder on the side.
Crime of Passion director Gerd Oswald, whose relatively few features include the effective crime drama A Kiss Before Dying, was the son of Vienna-born, mostly German-based filmmaker Richard Oswald, whose credits go all the way back to silent-era literary adaptations like The Picture of Dorian Gray (1917) and Around the World in 80 Days (1919). The younger Oswald is probably better known for his television work, including The Outer Limits, Bonanza, and The Twilight Zone episodes.
Barbara Stanwyck Best Actress Oscar nominations
Baby Face 1933 star Barbara Stanwyck went on to receive four Best Actress Academy Award nominations, for the following movies:
- King Vidor’s mother-love melodrama Stella Dallas (1937).
- Howard Hawks’ light comedy Ball of Fire (1941).
- Billy Wilder’s crime drama Double Indemnity (1944).
- Anatole Litvak’s film noir Sorry Wrong Number (1948).
A four-time loser in the competitive categories, Barbara Stanwyck took home an Honorary Oscar in 1982. She dedicated the statuette to her friend and Golden Boy co-star William Holden, who had been found dead in his hotel room in November of the previous year.
Barbara Stanwyck movies: TCM Aug. 19 line-up.
3:00 AM Barbara Stanwyck: Fire and Desire (1991). Barbara Stanwyck’s multi-faceted career reveals uncanny reflections of her off-screen life. Cast: Sally Field, Gary Cooper. Director: Richard Schickel. Color. 46 min.
4:00 AM Illicit (1931). Young free-thinkers turn conventionally jealous when they marry. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, James Rennie, Ricardo Cortez, Natalie Moorhead, Charles Butterworth, Joan Blondell. Director: Archie Mayo. Black and white. 80 min.
5:30 AM Ten Cents a Dance (1931). A taxi dancer with a jealous husband finds herself falling for a wealthy client. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Ricardo Cortez, Monroe Owsley. Director: Lionel Barrymore. Black and white. 77 min.
7:00 AM Night Nurse (1931). A nurse discovers that the children she’s caring for are murder targets. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Ben Lyon, Clark Gable, Joan Blondell, Blanche Friderici, Charles Winninger, Vera Lewis. Director: William A. Wellman. Black and white. 72 min.
9:45 AM Shopworn (1932). A waitress falls for a wealthy young man but has to fight his mother to find happiness. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Regis Toomey, ZaSu Pits, Lucien Littlefield, Clara Blandick, Robert Alden, Oscar Apfel. Director: Nick Grinde. Black and white. 66 min.
11:00 AM Ever in My Heart (1933). During World War I, a woman suspects her husband of being a German spy. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Otto Kruger, Ralph Bellamy. Director: Archie Mayo. Black and white. 69 min.
12:15 PM Baby Face (1933). A beautiful schemer sleeps her way to the top of a banking empire. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, John Wayne. Director: Alfred E. Green. Black and white. 76 min.
1:45 PM The Bride Walks Out (1936). A model weds a struggling engineer then has her own struggles with domesticity. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Gene Raymond, Robert Young. Director: Leigh Jason. Black and white. 81 min.
3:15 PM You Belong to Me (1941). A playboy marries a woman doctor then grows jealous of her male patients. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Edgar Buchanan, Roger Clark, Ruth Donnelly. Director: Wesley Ruggles. Color. 95 min.
5:00 PM The Locked Door (1929). A woman once kidnapped by a wealthy womanizer tries to save her sister from him. Cast: Rod La Rocque, Barbara Stanwyck, Betty Bronson, William ‘Stage’ Boyd. Director: George Fitzmaurice. Black and white. 74 min.
6:30 PM The File on Thelma Jordon (1950). A woman seduces a District Attorney and pulls him into a web of theft and murder. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey, Paul Kelly, Joan Tetzel. Director: Robert Siodmak. Black and white. 100 min.
8:15 PM Witness to Murder (1954). A woman fights to convince the police that she witnessed a murder. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, George Sanders, Gary Merrill. Director: Roy Rowland. Black and white. 82 min.
9:45 PM Crime of Passion (1957). An executive’s wife barters sex for her husband’s business success. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, Raymond Burr. Director: Gerd Oswald. Black and white. 86 mins.
11:15 PM Clash by Night (1952). An embittered woman seeks escape in marriage, only to fall for her husband’s best friend. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, Marilyn Monroe, Keith Andes. Director: Fritz Lang. Black and white. 105 min.
1:00 AM B.F.’s Daughter (1948). A professor doesn’t know his wife is an heiress. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck. Van Heflin. Charles Coburn. Richard Hart. Keenan Wynn. Margaret Lindsay. Spring Byington. Marshall Thompson. Barbara Laage. Director: Robert Z. Leonard. Black and white. 108m.
Schedule (Pacific Time) and synopses from the TCM website.
John Wayne and Barbara Stanwyck Baby Face 1933 image: Warner Bros.