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Erich Kuersten

Thanks for avenging the criminal lack of Babs impersonators in this manner - you're right, she's a tough nut to crack, and if anyone can crack her, it's you, and you did, I need to go home and watch 40 GUNS again.


Great piece. It was a real revelation for me a few years ago when I caught up with all those pre-Code Stanwyck/Capra collaborations. They're all wonderful, including one you didn't mention, FORBIDDEN (1932), in which Stanwyck gives a master class in film acting, believably spanning a gamut from melancholy to ferocity.

Randy Byers

I'm a relative late-comer to the cult of Stanwyck, but I think I prefer Night Nurse to Baby Face. Baby Face has a relatively conventional Hollywood ending, but in Night Nurse (SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS) she ends up with a gangster who commits murder to save her ... and gets away with it. Not that there has to be Only One Great Stanwyck Pre Code. (I haven't seen Ladies They Talk About.)


A couple of others to try to catch are "Remember the Night" and "The Furies", but Babs was watchable in pretty much everything she ever did.

Brian Miller

"Stanwyck manages the somewhat impossible task of making Stella Dallas a real woman and a martyr."

Kim, you hit the nail on the head here, although I think it's a defect. Stanwyck's characterization of Stella actually confers on her multiple personalities(only two). One personality is the "martyr": deeply humanistic, unselfish, reserved, self-conscious, epitomized by that legendary "witness in the rain" final scene.
The other personality is the "real woman": loud, coarse, vulgar, self-centered, epitomized by the scene where she dons the most garish costume in movie history in order to meet the mother of her daughter's boyfriend. Was that a white fox wrap she was wearing around that abomination? Well, at least it wasn't the fox from Antichrist.
The defect lies in the fact that her character(s) has no arc. Throughout the movie the two personalities alternate with each other in random fashion. Whenever we are sufficiently repulsed with the "real woman", she pulls out the "martyr" personality in order to regain our sympathy. Throughout the movie, the audience is in a perpetual tug of war with its own emotional investment in Stella.
Since the movie ends with Stanwyck in "martyr" mode we tend to be fooled into thinking she really was a humanistic, warm, and selfless person. But if the movie had just continued another five minutes we probably would have witnessed something completely coarse and vulgar and been left disappointed.

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