Entertainment :: Movies

TCM Greatest Classic Legends - Barbara Stanwyck

by Ed Tapper
Contributor
Wednesday Nov 13, 2013
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Any DVD collection featuring films of Barbara Stanwyck is a sure-fire bet. In her voluminous screen output, there is scarcely a miss. Her range was broader than perhaps any other leading lady of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and she excelled equally in comedy or drama. She convinced as a Park Avenue socialite or a tough broad from the wrong side of the tracks, and appeared just as comfortable in an Edith Head formal as in jeans and a saddle. Among TCM’s new releases this month is the Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: Barbara Stanwyck, which contains four very diverse films. Naturally, each one Is a winner.

From Stanwyck’s pre-code repertoire comes the 1933 "Baby Face," the raciest and best of the bunch. Amid the great depression, Babs is a ruthless, dirt-poor gold-digger, who lands a ground-level job in a banking firm and sleeps her way to the penthouse, ruining the lives of several men along the way. Eventually, she realizes that life at the top is not as fulfilling as she’d hoped. Stanwyck is as tough as they come, and an absolute sensation. She is well-supported by George Brent, and veritable newcomer John Wayne in a small role. TCM provides unusually good picture quality and two film versions, both the pre-release and theatrical editions.

In the 1935 biopic "Annie Oakley," Stanwyck leaves Wall Street for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Save for a trace of Brooklyn accent, she is convincing as the innocent, sharpshooting country girl who becomes one of the greatest showbiz attractions of her day. She falls for fellow marksman Preston Foster, while being pursued by promoter Melvyn Douglas. Hardly a great film, "Annie Oakley" is elevated by Stanwyck’s performance, as well as some footage of astounding Wild West acts.

Stanwyck is as tough as they come.

The collection is filled out by two lushly mounted soap operas. The 1946 "My Reputation" has Stanwyck as an upstanding, recent widow who vexes prudish mother Lucille Watson and her high-society friends when she cavorts with a free-wheeling military officer. Underrated Curtis Bernhardt provides elegant direction in this enjoyable moralistic curio. The other is the sumptuously cast "East Side, West Side," in which our star is the long-suffering wife of philandering husband James Mason. When seductress Ava Gardner sinks her claws into Mason, Stanwyck finds support from buddies Cyd Charisse, Nancy Reagan and Van Heflin, who falls for her himself.

There are some scattered extras in the form of film shorts and cartoons, but Stanwyck is unquestionably the star attraction here, and she never fails to entertain.

TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: Barbara Stanwyck
DVD
$19.99
www.TCM.com

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