MGM's publicity stills and costumes were as glossy as everything from that studio.
Barbara went to MGM for her next film East Side, West Side, a glossy star studded soap opera which that studio did so well.
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, with a great score by Miklos Rosza, and costumes by Helen Rose, it was so beautifully presented that it looked better than it probably was, but I still love it!.
I missed it when it was first released, and it's first TV showing in the late '60's. I finally caught up with it in 1993, when TNT had an all night Stanwyck tribute, "Major Barbara", which ran from 7pm till 5am the following morning, showing six film which I didn't have. I even managed to sit up all night to cut the adverts out. Those were the days when they showed all those rare MGM and Warners films from the '30's and '40's. I just wish that I had recorded more of them, but I didn't realise that TNT would change so drastically when it became TCM.
Barbara and James Mason play Jessie and Brandon Bourne, an outwardly perfectly matched society couple. She is the well bred daughter of Nora, an ex actress (Gale Sondergaard), and he is a successful businessman. Everything is fine until an old flame model, Isabel Lorrison (Ava Gardner) is back on the scene. Jessie finds a comforting shoulder to lean on when she is introduced to ex-policeman Mark Dwyer (Van Heflin) by her new friend Rosa, (Cyd Charisse).
There is a lot of drama, including a murder before everyone sorts out their individual lives.
This film is in my top ten of all her films, probably because Barbara was teamed with James Mason, my favourite British actor, They made such a handsome couple, I only wish that they had worked together again. Van Heflin was excellent as always in their third film together. Ava Gardner was wonderfully trashy as Isabel, and she held her own in the confrontational scene with Barbara. Cyd Charisse was surprisingly good in what must have been her first straight role. Newcomer Nancy Davis, later better known as The First Lady Mrs Ronald Reagan, made her film debut as Barbara's sympathetic friend.
At 42, Barbara still looked youthful enough to convincingly play Gale Sonderguaards daughter, even though she was just seven years younger.
The critics of the time didn't share my affection for the film, but I think that it has got better with age.
"Marcia Davenport's novel has become a preposterous film drama about love and marriage. Miss Stanwyck has spent a good part of many previous pictures being brave and self controlled: here she does it to the exclusion of everything else.
East Side, West Side is a glossy collection of childish poses, about as authentic as a weight machine fortune." - New York Herald
"Barbara Stanwyck plays the lady with a great deal of cold solemnity." - Bosley Crowther - The New York Times.
"Soap suds......the square of the triangle equals zero." - Evening Standard
"The language spoken by James Mason in his latest effort isn't especially foreign, but might as well be since he has taken to speaking his lines in a new kind of voice - as if muffled in fold after fold of felting." - C. A Lejeune - Observer
Unfortunately, James Mason never mentioned the film in his autobiography, but in "The Films of James Mason", he made this comment in 1974:
"Lejeune observed correctly that my voice sounded muffled in the films of this era. I think that this was partly because subconciously I did not want my presence to be detected; partly because I may have been trying out a mid-Atlantic accent. Soon after these disasters I righted myself, at least in this respect. That is, I saw clearly that in each film I must aim specifically at the accent of the character I was playing, English, American or whatever."
MGM's publicity stills and costumes were as glossy as everything from that studio.
Here are some off set shots taken while filming East Side, West Side.
Bob Taylor was filming Devils Doorway on an ajoining set and dropped in for a quick visit. Barbara and Van Heflin find something amusing in Variety, she is seeing going over her script on the set and in her dressing room, with James Mason showing off his new movie camera, and chatting with director Mervyn LeRoy.
Nice photos Ray, I particulary like the one with JM and the camera...
My only complaint was that when he reviewed East Side, West Side he had photo's of Ava and Cyd, but nothing on Barbara, maybe he couldn't find any, if only he had contacted me.
Incidentally. I spent most of yesterday watching Dirk. I am copying some programmes for a friend on here and watched the BBC Arena Programme, his Lifetime Achievement Award Show, By Myself, and the interview that he did with Russell Harty. I expect that you have all of these.
Here is Barbara arriving at the 1949 Acadamy Awards escorted by husband Bob, Edith Head is seen seated directly behind them.
Sorry, Wrong Number was the last film for which she was Nominated, she lost to Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda, and she did not attend Oscar night again until 1978 when Bill Holden paid his memorable tribute to her.
The File on Thelma Jordon (Thelma Jordon in the USA) was Barbara's last film of the 1940's, and for me one of her best from that period.
I thought that her performance in this film was far more worthy of an Oscar Nomination than the overwrought and hysterical Sorry, Wrong Number.
Walter Matthau was one of the guest speakers when Barbara was presented with the AFI's Life Achievement Award. He was especially facinated with Thelma Jordon, particularly the way she said, "Maybe I'm just a dame and didn't know it."
Director Robert Siodmak gives her a great entrance, she stands dressed all in white, framed in the doorway of District Attorney Cleve Marshall, (Wendell Corey). In a husky voice she asks him for advice about security for the house in which she lives with her old aunt. Feeling lonely and frustrated after a row with his wife he makes a pass but she rejects him. When she gets outside his office she finds that she has got a parking ticket. Cleve promises to fix it if she will have a drink with him. Before long they become involved, and then Thelma finds her aunt shot dead. She is eventually charged with the murder, and then things really get sticky when Cleve is given the job of prosecuting counsel. Naturally he wants to lose the case, but is Thelma on the level and as innocent as she seems? There are so many layers under that smouldering intensity, combined with what director Siodmak called "her feline catlike grace." This was demonstrated at it's most exciting when she is shown walking from the jail to the courthouse, only it is not so much a walk but more of a tigerish march, made all the more dramatic by Victor Young's wonderfully pounding score. The camera follows her as she leaves the jail surrounded by reporters on the arm of her defence lawyer, the marvellous slippery Stanley Ridges. She stares straight ahead as we follow her nonstop, through corridors, into a lift, out of the door, through lines of photographers, and then up flights of stairs. The whole rhythm of director, photographer and actress is so smooth as it builds up to a fever pitch, it is one of my all time favourite Stanwyck scenes.
I seem to be one of the few who liked Wendell Corey, he made it quite clear that he loved working with Barbara, and it showed, I thought that they had great chemistry. Her brother Byron Stevens had a non speaking role as the defence attorney, he can be seen in the courtroom scene above, he is second from the right and has an identical profile to his sister.
As always, the more dramatic her films the more lighthearted the mood of Barbara's sets seemed to be.
Her good friend Bill Holden was working on an another Paramount set and dropped in to see her. The gent clutching her in his arms was Assistant director Francisco Day, affectionately known as Chico. He was the brother of Gilbert Roland and described Barbara as one of the greatest women that he ever knew in the business. He is seen kissing her with another member of the crew in the other photo.
Paramount photo's to publicize The File on Thelma Jordon.
The 1950's began very well for Barbara when she starred in Paramount's adaption of the William Irish novel, "I Married a Dead Man."
The working title was "The Lie" which can be seen on one of the publicity photo's below, before it was given the rather soapy title, "No Man of Her Own," they should have kept the original book title.
Helen Ferguson is kicked out by her lover Stephen Morley (Lyle Bettger) after she becomes pregnant. After banging on his door pleading to see him, an envelope is pushed under the door containing money and a cross country train ticket. She leaves, looking heavily pregnant, and not noticing that she has dropped the money. On board the train she meets a very friendly married couple, Patrice and Hugh Harkness (Phyllis Thaxter and Richard Denning). Patrice is also pregnant, and when they go to the ladies room she asks Helen to put on her wedding ring as she is scared that she will lose it. A moment later there is an almighty crash, with the two pregnant ladies spinning around in the revolving carriage. Helen is next seen being wheeled from the train wreck and then in the hospital where she has given birth to her baby boy. She is confused when the doctor and nurses refer to her as Mrs Harkness, she asks about the couple who were with her and discovers that they are both dead, and she has been mistaken for the dead Patrice. Desperate to give her son a good life Helen keeps up the pretence when she remembers that Patrice told her that she had never met her in-laws. She is full of guilt but realises how much having her and the baby means to Mrs Harkness, beautifully played by Jane Cowl in her penultimate film. She meets the late son's brother and there is an immediate mutual attraction. Everything is going smoothly until one day a telegram arrives for Helen, it is unsigned, but the short message is enough to terrify her, "Who are you - Where did you come from - What are you doing there." She decides that she cannot keep up the lie any longer, she packs her bag and is all ready to leave when she finds that Mrs Harkness has had a hear attack. She realises that she can't leave the kind lady who has welcomed her into her home, and stays to nurse her. Some time later Helen receives another telegram, she is relieved to see that it is from Bill, asking her to a dance to meet his friends. They are dancing together when a man taps Bill on the shoulder saying, "May I cut in!" It is Stephen Morley, the father of her child, who has turned up for a spot of blackmail.
The story now gets very dark and noirish, and there is a murder before everything is sorted out, but it would be a shame to go any further as it is now out on DVD and that is well worth getting.
Director Mitchell Leisen makes sure that there is never a dull moment, and gets great performances from everyone. It is good to see Barbara in a softer a mood for a change, and her scenes with the wonderful Jane Cowl are the highlight of the film. John Lund is a likeable romantic lead, and Lyle Bettger a hissable villain.
If the story seems familiar, it was remade in 1996 as Mrs Winerbourne, with Shirley Maclaine, Rikki Lake, and Brendon Fraser.
They shouldn't have bothered!
This is what Leisen had to say about Barbara and the film: "I read the book and I knew that I wanted to do it, but the studio wasn't interested. I gave the book to Barbara, and she told the front office that if they didn't give her that picture she wouldn't do anything for them. Barbara is a fantastic actress. When she makes a gesture as she speaks a line, she has a way of suspending the motion in mid air for a split second on a certain word which gives the imperceptible emphasis to just that word.
She did all of her own stunts in the picture. To stage the train wreck, we built the set of the ladies room inside an enormous wheel about 20 feet in diameter. We rotated the wheel to make the train crash and roll over, and Barbara and Phyllis Thaxter were right in there, falling from side to side."
The critics seemed to like it too:
"No Man of Her Own qualifies as an excellent 'womans picture.' It combines an adult love story with melodrama: runs off with the intesity of a full bloom soap-opera, and is altogether satisfying screen drama. Barbara Stanwyck does a beautiful job of portraying the heroine." - Brog - Variety
"The appearance of Barbara Stanwyck as a dame plagued by the swarming consequences of some indiscreet social offense is one to which movie audiences should be well accustomed to by now. Along with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, she is one of the steadiest sufferers of the screen.
Seems like everytime Miss Stanwyck makes a picture she makes a false step - fictionally speaking that is - People know what to expect." - Bosley Crowther - The New York Times
Here are some off set shots in between filming. Barbara is seen going over her lines with John Lund, studying her script while making a phone call, with producer Hal Wallis chatting to gossip columnist Sheila Graham, and with her baby in the film and Jane Cowl.
Paramount publicity photo's from the great Whitey Schaefer.
In 1950 Barbara starred in Anthony Mann's The Furies, which was without doubt the greatest Western that she ever appeared in.
At her AFI Life Achievement Award evening, John Huston admitted that not only had he never worked with Barbara, he had never even met her. But he did say that he remembered his father Walter saying that she was one of the greatest actresses and finest women that he had ever worked with.
This was probably why that you don't notice anyone else when these two were together in a scene, and they were perfectly matched as T.C Jeffords and his fiery daughter Vance, heiress to his cattle empire and ranch The Furies. She is as tough as he is, unlike her despised brother Clay (John Bromfield). The only time that Vance shows any tenderness is when she is with her childhood friend Juan Herrera (Gilbert Roland). He loves her, but she is attracted to a conniving lawyer Rip Darrow (Wendell Corey)
Everything changes when T.C. brings Flo Burnette (Judith Anderson) to visit the ranch, Vance's resentment turns to hatred and violence, and her father then wreaks a terrible revenge on the daughter who he once worshipped. Vance in turn plans to ruin her powerful father, but it is a bitter victory.
It would be a shame to give away any more of the plot of this great film, it recently turned up on TCM and hopefully it will be repeated for those who have never seen it. Criterion have released a beautiully restored print in a presentation box which includes a booklet all about the film, plus the original novel by Niven Busch.
Anthony Mann said that Barbara hardly needed any direction, she came to the set fully prepared, knowing not only her own lines, but every other character's as well. The outdoor scenes were filmed on location near Tucson, Arizona, Victor Milner's black and white photography was stunning and received an Oscar Nomination (it lost to The Third Man). The stirring Franz Waxman score was outstanding, and really added to the excitement in some of the more dramatic scenes..
Apart from Barbara and Walter Huston, Judith Anderson was outstanding as Flo, and her clashes with Barbara were memorable.
Gilbert Roland deserved a Best Supporting Oscar for his moving performance as Juan, and the great stage actress Blanche Yurka was wonderfully sinister as his mother. I seem to be one of the few who liked Wendell Corey, but I always thought that he and Barbara had great chemistry.
Many critics commented on the psychological overtones of the Charles Schnee script, and the Freudian aspects, describing it as "Mourning Becomes Electra of the old West."
"This is the late Walter Huston's last picture, and his final performance is memorable. Both Miss Stanwyck and Miss Anderson are a match for him. A special word must be said for the literate and adult dialogue of Charles Schnee, which contributes immeasurably to this remarkably fine film." - The New York Sunday Mirror
"Principals are all fine in their character interpretation and there are a number of equally good contributions from the featured and supporting players. Hal Wallis's production supervision makes it's usual uses of highly technical contributions to dress up the values." - Variety
"Since Hal B Wallis , who produced, and Charles Schnee, the scenarist of 'The Furies' were a mind to turn out a big or adult-type Western, they can be listed as having achieved their goal. The results are interesting if not entirely exciting." - New York Times
" These are all good performances. As directed by Anthony Mann there is a lot of mood behind them, but there is little feeling or conviction in the screenplay by Charles Schnee." - The New York Herald Tribune
"In addition to unbelieveably noble heroes, despicable villains and innocent schoolteachers, the Old West also contained real flesh and blood people. These latter are the subject of Paramount's taut and stirring drama, The Furies.
Ambition, revenge, jealousy and passion, emotions usually displayed in less rugged surroundings - are the concern of this superior film." - The New York Mirror
Barbara developed a great admiration for Huston, as he did for her, both on and off camera, and his fatal heart attack at only 66 soon after the end of filming was a big blow to her. She was asked to dedicate a scholarship in his name at the University of Arizona when the film was premiered in Tucson. Her speech was a moving one, and in the quiet that followed, she unveiled the portrait of Huston that had been used in the film. Hal Wallis had presented it to Huston's son John, and John in turn, had presented it to the University. Later, at the film's premiere, she paid tribute to Huston again with these words:
"Ladies and gentlemen. You are about to see the Hal Wallis production of The Furies in which, unfortunately for our industry, Walter Huston plays his final role. It is Walter's picture, Mr Wendell Corey, Mr Gilbert Roland, Miss Judith Anderson and myself are the supporting cast. For me, this is the greatest honor I have ever had."
Last edited by Ray; 25-06-12 at 02:32 PM.
Here are some publicity stills from The Furies, one of them is a wardrobe test for the evening gown that she wears in the opening scene. Barbara is seen examining the film with director Anthony Mann, and with Wendell Corey arriving in Tucson for the Premiere.
Last edited by Ray; 25-06-12 at 04:00 PM.