Ruby Stevens (as Stanwyck was born) actually began her career as a member of the Ziegfield follies chorus line before graduating to stage parts. Without being a great actress Stanwyck proved throughout the late 30’s and forties to be one of the best in Hollywood, hard working and always reliable, equally at home in comedy or drama where she excelled in strong parts.
This list/sampler pulls together six movies from across her career that give an opportunity to examine her versatility.
EXECUTIVE SUITE hails from 1953 and is the classic boardroom drama with an all star cast which besides Stanwyck includes William Holden, June Allyson, Frederic March and Walter Pigeon. Stanwyck plays the daughter of the head of a big company who has just died, whilst the members of the board are vying for control it looks like Stanwyck as major share holder, may be the key player in deciding how everything falls out. This ensemble drama is a superb piece of entertainment.
ANNIE OAKLEY is a slice of western hokum from 1935 with Stanwyck playing the famed western girl Annie Oakley. The story concentrates on Oakley’s time with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and her relationship with rival sharp shooter Preston Foster. Directed by the legendary George Stevens this is a great movie from the golden age of Hollywood.
MY REPUTATION from 1946 is a gorgeous melodrama featuring Stanwyck never looking more radiant. Set in suburban Lake Forest, Illinois, the story focuses on Stanwyck’s Jessica Drummond, a young widow who has fallen for army officer George Brent, but people are talking, saying it is too soon for her to be involved with another man. Actually quite a relevant piece of post war drama as there would have been lots of women in Jessica’s position whose husbands had died and who needed som stability back in their lives. A gem of a movie.
EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE is another classic, made in 1949, it has Stanwyck married to the caddish James Mason, who is embroiled in an all consuming affair with the alluring Ava Gardner. When Gardner is found murdered it looks like Stanwyck is prime suspect, luckily for her though she has Van Heflin as a well connected FBI agent to save the day and offer a shoulder to cry on. A melodrama of the highest order, a top cast too!
Also worthy of attention is the racing car set TO PLEASE A LADY which co-stars Clark Gable and focuses on the relationship between journalist Stanwyck and race car driver Gable – building up to a race at the famed Indianapolis 500. Finally there is JEOPARDY which is a thrillerish tinged drama in which Barry Sullivan plays the husband whose fall through a rotted pier leaves him trapped. Stanwyck is the wife who rushes to get help only to fall into the clutches of an escaped convict.