Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Corner

Every summer, Marcia and Rebecca team up to cover a book.  This year, they covered Victoria Wilson's  A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel True 1907 -1940.

They offered "Avoid this book!" and "worst book of the century."

For those who might have different tastes, they recommend you judge by this excerpt on how Stanwyck's first marriage was instrumental to the film 1937 film A Star Is Born:

The model for the Vicki Lester-Norman Maine marriage was Barbara's marriage to Fay, which by this point had become Hollywood lore.  Fay had come to Hollywood a huge Broadway star; Barbara's big Broadway sucess in Burlesque had carried no weight in Hollywood.  She was an unknown girl married to one of the biggest draws in vaudeville and on Broadway.  For the first few years in Hollywood, after Fay changed his mind and allowed Barbara to work, he'd guided and supported her career; it was Fay who had Harry Cohn hire his wife for Mexicali Rose and arrange to pay her salary.  Fay brought [Frank] Capra a copy of Barbara's test scene from The Noose, shot by Alexander Korda, when Barbara, after making eleven unsuccessful tests, refused to make another for Capra's new picture, Ladies of Leisure, and it was Fay who insisted that Capra watch the test.  Capra, watching it, had fallen in love with Barbara and starred her in four of his pictures, launching her career.  Wellman and Carson used this in the picture when Norman Maine insists that the producer, Oliver Niles, watch Esther Blodgett's screen test.
It was part of Hollywood lore that as Barbara's star began to rise in picture after picture, Fay's godlike stature as Broadway's Favorite Son began to collapse.  Warner Bros. had put Fay in one improbable movie role after another in an attempt to make the red-headed, brilliant monologuist into the screen's most irresistible Latin lover.
Bill Wellman had watched much of this unfold.  He adored Stanwyck and she him.  They'd made three pictures together -- Night Nurse, So Big, The Purchase Price -- during the years -- 1931-1932 -- when Barbara's marriage was starting to come apart.  In many ways Bill felt that Barbara was a female version of himself: the leanness, the energy, the passion, the toughness, the fierce loyalty.
Hollywood had watched appalled and sniggering as Barbara stood steadfast by Fay's side ("I'm Mrs. Frank Fay," she'd insisted to reporters at the height of her stardom and the low point of his): through his publicized brawls, his string of failed pictures, and his disastrous return to Broadway's Palace, where he'd once he'd played the longest engagement in the theater's history.

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