Articles

Take It Off The E String, Play It On The G String

Barbara Stanwyck was one-in-a-million when it came to Hollywood legends. Incredibly versatile, her career spanned over 60 years. She fluidly moved from roles of a murderess in hard-boiled 40’s film noir, as a salty landowner in a wild western, or as a beauty in a Ziegfield Follies. She delivered some of the most memorable lines in film history and worked with legendary directors such as Billy Wilder, Cecil B. DeMille, Fritz Lang, and Frank Capra. She made over 70 films before turning her attention to television in the last 1950’s. Her television career garnered her numerous Emmy nominations and wins. Born Ruby Catherine Stevens on July 16, 1907, she won a Golden Globe for supporting actress role in the television mini-series The Thorn Birds at the age of 77 years old. Overall her filmography included over 85 films, her own show in the early 60s, The Big Valley, a Western classic, and numerous appearances throughout the 70s & 80s.  Six short years later, Stanwyck succumbed  January 20, 1990.

Born in Brooklyn, Ruby and her brothers and sisters were orphaned at an early age. One of five children, she and her brother Byron were were raised by an older sister, Mildred, who was 19 years Ruby’s senior.  Mildred introduced Ruby to show business, when she got a job as a showgirl. Ruby was placed in multiple foster homes after that, from which she kept running away. During the summer’s, she would tour with Mildred and practice her routines with her. Young Ruby idolized actress Pearl White (The Perils of Pauline) who inspired her to follow the path of acting. Although Mildred tried to dissuade her from showbiz, Ruby dropped out of school at the age of 14 and took up various odd jobs to make herself financially independent. A few months after her 16th birthday, she auditioned and was offered a spot as a dancer in the 1922 – 1923 seasons of the Ziegfeld Follies. It was the beginning of what would be a successful career on Broadway. Changing her name to Barbara Stanwyck, within five short years, she was a lauded star, and landed her first leading role for Burlesque by Arthur Hopkins. He described his search for the character and how he found Stanwyck to possess a “rough poignancy.” Around this time she also was given a test for the silent film Broadway Nights. While she didn’t get a major role in that film, her star was shining bright. She moved to Hollywood in 1928 and had to minor sound films before she was cast by Frank Capra in the 1930 film Ladies of Leisure. After that, prominent film roles rolled in and she was featured in many roles opposite Hollywood greats Clark Gable, Joel Mcrea, Henry Fonda and Gary Cooper.

Today’s song clip is from the 1943 movie Lady of Burlesque. The film was a dark comedy that was based off a novel written by striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee called The G-String Murders. The film was a backstage murder/mystery in which Lee wrote herself into one of the characters, Dixie Daisy, who was portrayed by Stanwyck. The story focuses around two stripper from a New York burlesque who were murdered and, subsequently, the discovery of the killer. As faithfully recreated for the screen as possible due to censorship rules at the time, the film grossed $1.85 million, or roughly $2.5 billion today. It’s impossible to watch this clip and not be dazzled by her charm. You can even watch Lady of Burlesque in its entirety on Youtube.

Visit Wikipedia more a more extensive Barbara Stanwyck biography.

vi

She was bad, she was dangerous…

In 1952, Fred Astaire starred alongside the stunning dancer Cyd Charisse in the 1952 musical comedy “The Band Wagon.” The storyline is that an aging musical star wants to kickstart his career with a new production. The play’s director brings in a prima ballerina to aid in a pretensions retelling of the story of Faust. The two stars clash terribly.

Despite being a modest box office success, The Band Wagon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in 1995. Then, in 2006, this film ranked #17 on the American Film Institute’s list of best musicals.

The film was directed by Vincente Minelli and was a typical luscious Technicolor splendor of the era. The colors used in this film are stunning and the set design, costume design and choreography are second to none.  This scene, known as the Girl Hunt Ballet, is based off a Mikey Spillane pulp novel writer story The Girl Hunters. Famous line from this scene, “She was bad, she was dangerous. I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her, but, she was my kind of woman.”