Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2014 September 26 • Friday

This new Barbara Stanwyck biography was something of a let down.

There had been rumblings that it was excessive: over a thousand pages and it only goes up to 1940! Early on, as Victoria Wilson sets the scene of Barbara Stanwyck's Brooklyn childhood and chorus-girl beginnings, I appreciated the digressions. There's very little documentation on Stanwyck's life then and very few people around to talk about them, so bringing to life the environment and other characters, the context, made good sense, both dramatically and biographically.

Once Stanwyck gets to Hollywood, however, she enters a very well documented time and place and the attention paid to her milieu has the unfortunate effect of taking Staneyck out of focus. The more I read, the less I felt I knew about Barbara Stanwyck.

At some point it seemed to me that this was less of a crafted biography and more of a dumping ground for every bit of information the author could find about anybody and anything connected to Stanwyck. Nothing is shaped or presented for importance. There's more about Stanwyck's race horses then there is about her adopted son.

Many of the stories told sound apocryphal and I noticed some errors in a paragraph about Orson Welles, so this book probably shouldn't be taken as gospel. I'll read the second volume when it comes out, but I think that Dan Callahan's Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman is still the better book, albeit one that concentrates more on Stanwyck's work than on her life.