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Barbara Stanwyck, i.e. Old Hollywood Had Actresses Besides Katharine Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman

I'm in one of those moods lately where I'm falling in love with EVERYTHING, including things I used to be in love with. So maybe this is some weird subconscious wriggling in of the Christmas spirit. Maybe? Or maybe I don't know how Christmas works.

I mostly want to watch a bunch of Barbara Stanwyck movies.

LET ME TELL YOU A TALE. When I was 17, it was Easter morning. I did not want to go to church (I actually rarely go that day, despite being totes into God and stuff; it is a blatantly hipster move of that being the day EVERYBODY goes). I climbed into my parents' bed while they got ready and put on Turner Classic Movies, where The Strange Love of Martha Ivers was playing.

And hello to you too.

'That woman looks like Celeste Holm, I'll bet it is totally Celeste Holm,' I said, full of HUBRIS about my classic movie knowledge. But upon pressing the info button I learned no! It was not Celeste Holm at all! It was someone named Barbara Stanwyck, and she was playing a total nutbar in this movie.

Albeit a nutbar with some good lines. Lizabeth Scott, you are a poor man's Lauren Bacall and Martha and I do not like you.

My senior year of high school was composed of two things: Frasier & Lilith on Cheers, and Barbara Stanwyck. I wrote Frasier/Lilith fanfiction in Physics and spent a lot of time thinking about how to make my waist as tiny as Barbara Stanwyck's in all my other classes (note: you cannot. it's impossible). I wrote one of my college essays about how Double Indemnity, her classic film noir with the guy from My Three Sons, was my favorite movie, which was a blatant LIE because the only reason I like that movie is that she's super-hot in it. In a bad-blonde-wig kind of way. But my brain wasn't self-aware enough to acknowledge that, and colleges didn't want to hear it (or maybe they did, pervs).

Phyllis, you think you are good at incognito,
but you are not. This is a grocery store.

Barbara Stanwyck was super-tough, super-pretty, and was willing to take roles other actresses were scared of. She was hilarious and terrifying and awesome. The Lady Eve, where she plays a con artist who falls in love with a wealthy but constantly befuddled snake expert? Fantastic. Ball of Fire, where she's a nightclub performer who has to hide out in a house full of professors who are writing an encyclopedia? Good lord. Does she teach them the rumba? Yes, she does. IS one of the professors the voice of the Caterpillar in Disney's Alice in Wonderland? ALSO YES.

Ball of Fire. So good.

There's also Clash by Night and Christmas in Connecticut and the aforementioned Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Double Indemnity and SO MANY OTHERS. Like The Bitter Tea of General Yen, which you only watch if you're 17 and trying to get through her whole filmography and ahahaha it is not good.


If you're gonna go one level deeper into classic films, you need to know Barbara Stanwyck. You get zero points for people like Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. But people like Stanwyck, Irene Dunne, Ann Sheridan, Norma Shearer, and Myrna Loy? Now you sound like you haven't just been looking at the covers of Barnes & Noble's Portraits of Classic Hollywood coffee table books.


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