A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940

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9780684831688: A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940
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Frank Capra called her, "The greatest emotional actress the screen has yet known." Yet she was one of its most natural, timeless, and underrated stars.

Now Victoria Wilson, gives us the most complete portrait we have yet had, or will have, of this magnificent actresses, seen as the quintessential Brooklyn girl whose family was in fact of old New England stock...her years in New York as dancer and Broadway star...her fraught marriage to Frank Fay, Broadway genius, who influenced a generation of actors and comedians (among them, Jack Benny and Stanwyck herself)...the adoption of a son, embattled from the outset; her partnership with the "unfunny" Marx brother, Zeppo, together creating one of the finest horse breeding farms in the west; her fairytale romance and marriage to the younger Robert Taylor, America's most sought-after male star...Here is the shaping of her career working with many of Hollywood's most important directors: among them, Capra, King Vidor, Cecil B. Demille, Preston Sturges, all set against the times-the Depression, the rise of the unions, the coming of World War II and a fast-evolving coming-of-age motion picture industry.

At the heart of the book, Stanwyck herself-her strengths, her fears, her desires-how she made use of the darkness in her soul, keeping it at bay in her private life, transforming herself from shunned outsider into one of Hollywood's-and America's-most revered screen actresses. Written with full access to Stanwyck's family, friends, colleagues, and never-before-seen letters, journals and photographs.

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Barbara Stanwyck, originally Ruby Stevens, (1907-1990) started work on Broadway as a chorus girl, but after landing a small part in a 1926 play her acting talent was spotted and she was soon lured to Hollywood. Charting her early career up to the beginning of the Second World War this biography assesses her life and evolution as an actor and her collaborations with the leading stars and directors of the period including Frank Capra, Cecil B DeMille and husband Robert Taylor.

Review:

“860 glittering pages... it ends with a cliffhanger, creating eager anticipation for Ms. Wilson’s concluding volume... ‘A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907-1940’ is not about the actress alone. It’s bigger and splashier. Stanwyck knew the most notable directors, writers, actors, studio chiefs and Broadway impresarios of her day, and Ms. Wilson is interested in all of them. A remarkable array of still photographs present supporting characters like Florenz Ziegfeld, Annie Oakley, Clark Gable and Zeppo Marx, all of whom have their places in this account. An even more startling collection of movie ads and posters tells a riveting tale of sexism (about ‘Baby Face’: ‘You’ve never seen anything like this frank, man-to-man story of a man-to-man girl!’), even as they chronicle Stanwyck’s career... The book describes how she evolved from an emotion-wringing actress into a sullen, bad-girl bombshell into Stella Dallas, arguably the most soapily self-sacrificing mother ever seen on camera... Regarding Ms. Wilson’s follow-up, no studio’s publicity department could offer a better set of coming attractions.” (Janet Maslin New York Times)

"I finished your book last night with a SIGH. I wanted Volume Two immediately. What a wonderful book. I didn’t really know much about Barbara Stanwyck and now I can’t wait to see all her movies, having only seen a very few. Many congratulations on writing such a good, good book.” (Andre Bishop Artistic Director of Lincoln Center Theatre)

“Barbara Stanwyck was one of the very great loves of my life and Victoria Wilson's book told me so much more than Barbara herself could tell anybody. She has captured her loyalty--her professionalism--her anger and her undeniable will to stay in the game of life and, perhaps most importantly--her loneliness. Victoria has been ‘steel true’ to her.” (Robert Wagner)

“An epic Hollywood narrative about the craft, politics and business of the industry, with Stanwyck at its center. A compelling, complicated, read... worth the journey.” (Bill Desowitz USA Today)

“In ‘A Life of Barbara Stanwyck,’ the accretion of detail, told simply and unemotionally, builds a living thing. A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel - True 1907-1940’ does detail her life...But the book is also a life of Hollywood during the 1930s and America during the Depression and the way the dream factory and reality interact.” (Aljean Harmetz Indiewire)

"Victoria Wilson’s monumental Life of Barbara Stanwyck is not only an extraordinarily well researched and documented biography of a great star actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood, it is also a vivid portrait of the entire era in which she flourished. Her films and her private life are both chronicled in great detail in this excellently written work, the first of a two-volume labor of love that will surely stand as definitive on an important subject, Stanwyck being perhaps the most modern of all female screen stars." (Peter Bogdanovich)

"If ever there was an actress who was ready for prime time, it is Stanwyck, and this enormously informative tribute -- juicy, yet dignified, admiring yet detached – is the book to bring her to center stage." (Molly Haskell New York Times Book Review)

“This biography, when completed, will be the last word on Stanwyck.” (Leonard Maltin Indiewire)

I had a great time reading about Miss Stanwyck. . .what a fabulous endeavor. I marveled at the work involved. You gave me a terrific read, and I thank you sincerely. (Art Garfunkel)

"Wilson gives us an appropriately large, thrilling, and sensitive biography to go with this staggering career. . . . What she discovered—and shares in this indelible, revelatory book—is an artist's extraordinary transformation from homeless child to one of the most magnetic stars in the history of Hollywood." (Michael Lindsay-Hogg Town & Country)

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