Saturday, January 04, 2014

“A Life of Barbara Stanwyck” by Victoria Wilson – Immortalizing a Legend

A Life of Barbara Stanwyck by Victoria Wilson – Book cover
It feels like it has been around forever, but in the grand scheme of things, the industry of audiovisual entertainment (movies) is still in its infancy, having only existed for a bit more than a hundred years at this point. Nevertheless, we have already seen a fair share of people gain respect and popularity like none else before them, and one of the most notable silver screen stars to have ever existed is arguably named Barbara Stanwyck.

Starting her movie career with the beginning of sound films, she sent shockwaves across Hollywood for decades before moving on to television movies. Many described her as perhaps the most natural actress on camera, making everything look smooth and legitimate without being forced. As it happens, she had a very interesting life, one which we cannot allow to become lost in time like so many other stories. And so, Victoria Wilson set out to write a biography on the actress, and she recently published it under the title A Life of Barbara Stanwyck.

So what exactly are you going to learn about Stanwyck from this biography? Well, just about everything there is to. The information was compiled from over two hundred interviews with people in the showbiz, with many of them being related to Stanwyck in one way or the other. In addition, Wilson also conducted her fair share of research, drawing information from letters, journals, private documents and more.

In terms of material covered, Wilson starts at the very beginning of Stanwyck’s life, and carefully goes through virtually all she experienced, including her tumultuous and rather tragic childhood, her pre-Hollywood career, her work with famous directors (Frank Capra being one of them), her turn to television and even her last days. In other words, we get to learn everything about the events which marked her life, with Wilson leaving very few, if any stones unturned. In terms of the knowledge this book provides of the author, I can safely say that it has very few equals out there.

Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck

The book may be long and filled to the brim with various details, I found that it remained a very entertaining read, and I imagine that anyone with a pre-existing interest in Stanwyck would agree on this one. Wilson truly made the effort to turn what could have been a very dry and tedious read into something smooth that flows seamlessly and takes you below the surface of cold hard facts.

I constantly had the impression that I wasn’t reading about Stanwyck, but that I was actually reliving her life alongside her; there is definitely room for emotional investment in this one as we also learn about the kind of character Stanwyck was in real life and what drove her to make the decisions she did.

All in all, A Life of Barbara Stanwyck is the quintessential read for all those seeking to get better acquainted with the silver screen legend, being extremely informative about every aspect of her life while still remaining quite entertaining. I can do nothing but recommend this book to pretty much everyone, except of course those who have absolutely no interest in the history of cinema or Stanwyck herself.



Victoria "Vicky" Wilson (1949)

Victoria "Vicky" Wilson


Personal site

Victoria Wilson is an American author and publishing executive who actually served on the United States Commission on Civil Rights in 2000 and 2001. She taught the writing program at Columbia University for a couple of years. Her first and only novel so far is A Life of Barbary Stanwyck.

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