Thursday, April 12, 2012
BARBARA STANWYCK: THE MIRACLE WOMAN
If you were hoping this would be an in-depth major biography of Barbara Stanwyck, the disappointing news is that this isn't really a biography and has only a few, non-revelatory details about her private life. The good news is that Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman is still a highly entertaining book written by someone who is an obvious enthusiast for the actress and her work. Callahan has chosen to focus strictly on Stanwyck's work and films, and fortunately he's a good enough and knowledgeable enough writer to make his dissection of the movies and Stanwyck's thesping in them be absorbing. The book is divided into chapters that look at different phases in her career -- say the western phase or the film noir phase -- or films are grouped together by directors, such as Frank Capra. Of her later period, Callahan writes about Stanwyck's wonderful delivery of her heart-rending speech to Father Ralph in The Thornbirds. You won't agree with everything in the book -- he dismisses Lionel Barrymore as a "dreaded ham thespian" and uses the supposedly cute term "dyke-alicious" [when will people realize that "dyke" and "fag" are "n words" for the gay community] for a sequence in Night Nurse. Overall, however, this is a good book and a good bet for Stanwyck fans.
Verdict: Very worthwhile for Barbara Stanwyck fans. ***.