The Great Man's Lady
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Screen legend Barbara Stanwyck stars as a 109-year-old woman who recounts the story of her eventful life in The Great Man’s Lady. After Hoyt City dedicates a statue to its founder Ethan Hoyt (Joel McCrea), the woman who inspired his achievement, Hanna Sampler (Stanwyck), tells their story to a young biographer. She begins with their elopement in 1848 when she was a headstrong girl of 16 and Ethan was an idealist yearning to build a city in the West. Their future was fraught with difficulties, from life in a prairie shack to a fruitless search for gold and, ultimately, to Ethan’s jealousy over Hanna’s friendship with gambler (Brian Donlevy). Through it all, she remained what she is today: the woman who sacrificed everything for Ethan’s sake.
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Told in flashback, we see a reporter (K.T. Stevens), interview Hannah (Stanwyck) who is 109 years old just as they are about to dedicate a statue of Ethan Hoyt (her husband). We then go into the flashback mode to the year 1848 where we see Hannah as a spirited young girl. The film depicts Hannah's life with Ethan, their pioneering stock (nobody plays a pioneer woman better than Stanwyck), the tragedies they encounter, their separation and ultimate reunion.
Stanwyck, of course as always is excellent and it has been said she should have received an Academy Award nomination for this picture. I agree.
This film was one of her own personal favorites but at the time it was released, it was never very successful and it broke her heart.
This film is excellent in every way and will disappoint none of Stanwyck's admirers.
Well, maybe yes, maybe no but one thing is clear in my mind : THE GREAT MAN'S LADY is not a good exemplification of that statement of belief. First of all, the movie should have lasted at least one hour longer in order to convince us that Joel McCrea was actually a great Man because in the four or five scenes in which he's got the chance to defend his convictions, he rather appears as a selfish and greedy man than as an example. Now, I admit that Barbara Stanwyck impersonates a woman with a strong character, that she followed her husband to the West in spite of the consent of her family, that she preferred not to tell her husband she was pregnant so that he won't stay home because of her (a little melodramatic, isn't it ?) and that, when he finally made it socially, she chose to stay silent and hide the fact that Joel McCrea was already married to her. Interesting behavior for sure but, in my opinion, a little too passive to deserve the applause demanded by THE GREAT MAN'S LADY. The film really deserves only two stars but Barbara Stanwyck deserves an extra star for her performance. She was 35 years old when she played the character of Hannah Sempler and she managed to impersonate a 17 years old girl as well as a 107 years old woman.
A DVD zone Wellman minor efforts.