Michael Korda has been Victoria Wilson's editor during the fifteen years of the Stanwyck project. He was the Editor in Chief of Simon and Schuster for 37 years and edited the likes of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, David McCullough, and countless others. He is also the prolific author of Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, Ulysses S. Grant, With Wings Like Eagles, and more. He lives in upstate New York.
The phrases “long awaited” and “groundbreaking” are often cast around rather too loosely in book publishing, but for once they apply with perfect truth to Victoria Wilson’s A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel True, 1907-1940, the first volume of her remarkable biography of the brilliant, enigmatic and complex actress whose life spanned the richest and fastest changing period of the motion picture business, which included the coming of sound and the beginning of color, and whose career took her from Broadway to Hollywood stardom and television.
Movie star biographies taken as a genre tend to be slim and short on facts, more about glamor (and occasionally scandal) than about the business of becoming a star, but Victoria Wilson has brought to her subject the narrative brilliance, the phenomenal research, and the broad historical overview of such distinguished biographers as Robert Caro and David McCullough—indeed this may be, to my knowledge is, the first time that a figure from the world of show business has been treated as a serious subject, and the result is a major book that is not only endlessly fascinating, but full of surprises, and above all thoroughly readable from the first page to the last.
Ms. Wilson has that most important of qualities for a biographer, empathy for her subject, but also the thirst for details, the determination to root Barbara Stanwyck firmly in her time, and a real sense not only for what made Barbara Stanwyck tick, but for how a movie gets made, as well as for the perfectionism and determination that made Stanwyck a legendary performer who worked with such demanding directors as Frank Capra, King Vidor, Cecil B. DeMille, Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, and Anatole Litvak.
In the process, Ms. Wilson presents not just a riveting and profoundly convincing portrait of Barbara Stanwyck, both as a woman and as a hugely gifted performer, with a careful, subtle description of her strengths and her weaknesses, but a sweeping panorama of the world she came from, grew up in, and from which she fought her way up to stardom at a time when America itself was changing radically and going through great historical crises.
Fifteen years in the making—and that despite a career that has taken Victoria Wilson to an enviable position as one of the most respected editors in book publishing, Vice President and Senior Editor at Alfred A. Knopf—A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel True 1907-1940 establishes her as a uniquely gifted biographer, as sensitive to Barbara Stanwyck’s traumatic childhood, complicated emotional life and difficult marriage as she is to understand that most complicated of all the creative arts, the making of a motion picture. In a career that spanned eighty-eight motion pictures, including such classics as Stella Dallas, Union Pacific, Double Indemnity, and Sorry, Wrong Number, Barbara Stanwyck carved out for herself a unique place as a great star who brought to the screen much of the fierce intelligence, complexity, artistic integrity and inner resolve that marked her own life.
This first volume ends with Stanwyck at the peak of her career, and I believe it will make you, as it did me, look forward expectantly to the next volume.
I highly recommend this book to fans of Barbara Stanwyck and to classic film enthusiasts.
I also think that she writes too much about movie plots—a lot of this could have been cut and a truly terrific book of 500 pages could have been produced.
Yet, this is only volume one of two volumes on the great Hollywood actress, Barbara Stanwyck.
This book is REALLY long and only covers half of her life...WAY too much detail and a real chore to read through even if you're a big fan and a fast reader like I am... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Dr. C
This is an interesting book. It does provide a lot of extra information that relates to Barbara and the time period. At times the editing could use improvement.Published 4 days ago by Pearl
This was a Christmas gift for a friend and she really enjoyed it.Published 23 days ago by Susan Lacoste
This book is a useful compendium of detail about Stanwyck and her time, but Wilson is apparently so imposing a figure as an editor, herself, that no one had the nerve to become her... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Scaramouche
OK, my bad, when I bought this book I didn't realize that it was over 900 pages and it only covers Barbara Stanwyck's life and career to 1940. Read morePublished 2 months ago by G. Misthos
Can't wait for the next volume - have read it twice and will probably reread.Published 2 months ago by Dolly
Fascinating! So much (at times almost too much) information about a true Hollywood original. Wilson gives all the facts, some great analysis of Stanwyck's performances, and the... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Greg Mehrten
Sadly, this book reads like a very rough first draft waiting for revision and tightening. That's all the more surprising given that the author is a senior editor at Knopf. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Susan Schulman