PERFORMING ARTS

The Cinema of Barbara Stanwyck: Twenty-Six Short Essays on a Working Star

Univ. of Illinois May 2023. 368p. ISBN 9780252087172. pap. $29.95. FILM
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Much has been written about Barbara Stanwyck (1907–90) and the classic films she starred in during her long career. Russell (cinema, Concordia Univ.; Classical Japanese Cinema Revisited) brings a fresh perspective to Stanwyck’s legacy by alphabetically breaking down the themes, throughlines, and multitudes within her body of work and persona as a star. For example, one chapter examines the 1953 movie All I Desire and the 1956 There’s Always Tomorrow, both of which were directed by Douglas Sirk. Another chapter looks at Stanwyck’s strained relationship with her adopted son Dion, rumors about her sexuality, and her unmotherly film roles. Readers are able to explore her life beyond the linear narrative to which so many stars’ stories have been confined. There is still much to learn about movies made long ago, and this book explores them well. Russell shows that Stanwyck’s career is not merely what happened from beginning to end, but what the movies she left behind mean to the world today.
VERDICT A well-written and engaging book on a star everyone should know. Perfect for libraries with classic movie fans and film-history nerds.
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