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Stanwyck: A Biography Paperback – October, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Harpercollins (Mm); Reprint edition (October 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061090670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061090677
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 4.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,260,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Madsen ( Chanel ) picks a tough subject in movie legend Barbara Stanwyck, who was born in Brooklyn in 1907 and orphaned at age three. She scrambled up through the Broadway chorus line and, by the time she reached Hollywood, was such a hard worker that Madsen has to struggle to avoid recounting endless lists of movies, memorable and otherwise. On the orders of MGM, Stanwyck married leading man Robert Taylor. We hear a lot about their troubled relationship, which Madsen portrays as a "lavender" marriage to conceal Taylor's homosexuality. Yet the meat here lies in the detailed descriptions of Stanwyck's movies, which include such classics as Stella Dall a s, The Lady Eve, Ball of Fire and Billy Wilder's spectacular Double Indemnity . The overall impression we're left with is of a talented woman who cared mainly for her career. Stardom and riches failed to buy her serenity in a youth-obsessed Hollywood, where Stanwyck died alone at the age of 84. Madsen's bio breathes intimacy on every page and avoids a gossipy tone. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Barbara Stanwyck was one of this century's finest film actresses. She received three Academy AwardR nominations and won an honorary Oscar, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, and three Emmys. Author of the excellent William Wyler: The Authorized Biography (Crowell, 1973), Madsen would appear to be an appropriate biographer for such a star. Unfortunately, his results this time are less impressive. He has no penetrating insights to impart, and some questionable statements and infelicities of style detract. Madsen's Stanwyck is about on a par with the identically titled book by Jane Ellen Wayne (LJ 12/85)-which is to say, average. The definitive book on Stanwyck's films is Ella Smith's Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck (LJ 1/15/74; Crown, 1985. rev. ed.); the definitive book on Stanwyck's life has yet to be written.
John Smothers, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Manalapan, N.J.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

It was one of the reasons I ordered this book.
beavertrapper
I found this book to be repetitious and not worthy of its subject.
Patricia Baysinger
She deserves something far better than this rubbish.
Miss Brianna

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
People are reacting pretty strongly in their reviews of this book, I suspect primarily because of the claims that Madsen makes about Stanwyck's sexuality. But the fact is that while this isn't a terribly good book, it is also not a truly horrible one, either. If one wants a basic, serviceable biography of Stanwyck, which lays out the main facts and events in her life, this one will do.
The virtue of the book is that is it fairly thorough and comprehensive. One gets a feel for her life, for the way she viewed both herself and the world, and for some of the dynamics in her relationships. A portrait emerges of a woman who was both very admirable and quite disappointing. One admires her drive and enormous professionalism as an actress, and is impressed by how giving and helpful she was to her fellow professionals. Away from her vocation as an actress, however, Stanwyck emerges as someone less than admirable. Other accounts of her life have emphasized her difficulty with intimate relationships, her failure as a mother (not quite "Mommie Dearest" but definitely not a role model), and her lamentable political commitments. Although not the political activist that her husband Robert Taylor or his friends John Wayne and Ronald Reagan were, she nonetheless was pretty much part and parcel of the Hollywood Anticommunist movement that ruined so many people's lives in the 1940s and 1950s.
On the negative side, Madsen's prose is drab at best. Madsen seems to be the essence of the "professional" writer, who lives by writing a certain number of pages in a certain amount of time. There is a workmanlike dullness to his pages, and multiple signs of minimal rewriting, such as almost verbatim repetition of passages and restatement of quotes.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Brandan Thomas on September 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Poor Barbara Stanwyck! She made the unpardonable error of living a relatively scandal-free life in Hollywood. If what Madsen says about her sexuality is true, he fails to back it up with any substantiative evidence; Stanwyck made few enemies during her reign in Hollywood; with the exception of Maureen O'Sullivan, and who was she? Whatever she did, she was discreet, unlike her contemporaries Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Her personal life was her personal life, and while many of us would give our left arm to really know the more intimate details of her personal life, you have to respect her for keeping a hermetically sealed lid on it.
Also, Madsen does not use enough photographs in this book, it would have been nice to see more.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
After a great star dies, and is incapable of self-defense, the vultures come out. The same fate awaits them all, and the current fad is to focus on the departed's real, or imagined, sexuality. No one is immune, because that's what sells. This sloppy hack-job is the result of Axel Madsen's rush to be the first to dignify in print totally unsubstantiated rumors about Stanwyck and Robert Taylor. But his desperate efforts simply confirm what I've found in my own research: There simply isn't a single piece of solid evidence involving Barbara, OR Bob, to justify these rumors (and don't think plenty of people haven't been searching). Madsen places Stanwyck and Taylor in questionable company and situations, without corroboration, simply because it's within the realm of possibility. Employing this tactic, one could claim that Stanwyck and President Coolidge had a love affair --- since they both were ALIVE at the same time and Coolidge visited New York at least ONCE while Barbara was a chorus girl there.
The book's "notes" are just a smokescreen, giving the IMPRESSION of verification, while TOTALLY FAILING to support the book's most sensational passages. For example, one source cited is Oscar Levant's "Memoirs of an Amnesiac". In that book, Levant writes that while appearing in a play with Stanwyck (in 1927) he would sometimes walk her home at night. The ONLY place he ever took her was to the Palace Theatre, because its star, Frank Fay (her future husband), was eager to meet her. Using this as a jumping-off point, Madsen depicts Levant and Stanwyck carousing through Harlem and encountering every 1920's lesbian he can think of. But, unless you read Oscar's book, you won't know that LEVANT NEVER WROTE ANYTHING OF THE KIND!
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Tannenbaum on February 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
No matter what Axel Madsen writes about Barbara Stanwyck, I find her to be someone I would love to have met and known. He tries to make her "toughness" sound like something negative; but, as a matter of fact, I admire that quality about Stanwyck. She was tough, she was strong, she was independent, she was sharp, and she was a brilliant actress. Her vulnerability, still visible beneath that tough facade, always goes straight to my heart, somehow. She couldn't help the facts of her early life, her being an orphan, poor, abandoned by her father...the woman's drive to succeed was phenomenal and she should be remembered for that, for her refusal to wallow in self-pity, and for her professionalism, both on and off the screen. I've always loved her and I always will. She was a private person; her personal life was her personal life, entirely her own business. Her refusal to "let it all hang out" should be copied by today's "actresses," as I loosely call them. The book is laced with mistakes about the facts of her life. But, as these books go, I'll have to admit it isn't as lurid or as vicious as some of them are. Madsen seems to own up to a grudging respect for Stanwyck; that's a step in the right direction.
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