Barbara Stanwyck – The Signature Collection – DVD Review

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Annie Oakley
Director:
George Stevens

Cast:
Barbara Stanwyck….Annie Oakley
Preston Foster….Toby Walker
Melvyn Douglas….Jeff Hogarth
Moroni Olsen….Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody
Chief Thunderbird…Sitting Bull

Warner Home Entertainment presents Annie Oakley. Screenplay by Joel Sayre and John Twist. Running time: 90 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release: Nov. 15, 1935.

My Reputation
Director:
Curtis Bernhardt

Cast:
Barbara Stanwyck….Jessica Drummond
George Brent….Maj. Scott Landis
Warner Anderson….Frank Everett
Lucile Watson….Mrs. Mary Kimball

Warner Home Entertainment presents My Reputation. Screenplay by Catherine Turney. Running time: 94 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release: Jan. 26, 1946.

East Side, West Side
Director:
Mervyn LeRoy

Cast:
Barbara Stanwyck….Jessie Bourne
James Mason….Brandon Bourne
Van Heflin….Mark Dwyer
Ava Gardner….Isabel Lorrison
Cyd Charisse…Rosa Senta
Nancy Davis….Helen Lee
William Conrad….Lt. Jacobi
William Frawley….Bill the Bartender

Warner Home Entertainment presents East Side, West Side. Screenplay by Isobel Lennart. Running time: 108 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release: Dec. 22, 1949.

To Please A Lady
Director:
Clarence Brown

Cast:
Clark Gable….Mike Brannan
Barbara Stanwyck….Regina Forbes
Adolphe Menjou….Gregg

Warner Home Entertainment present To Please A Lady. Screenplay by Marge Decker and Barre Lyndon. Running time: 91 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release: Oct. 30, 1950.

Jeopardy
Director:
John Sturges

Cast:
Barbara Stanwyck….Helen Stilwin
Barry Sullivan….Doug Stilwin
Ralph Meeker….Lawson, the Fugitive
Lee Aaker….Bobby Stilwin

Warner Home Entertainment presents Jeopardy. Screenplay by Mel Dinelli. Running time: 69 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release: March 30, 1953.

Executive Suite
Director:
Robert Wise

Cast:
William Holden….McDonald Walling
June Allyson….Mary Belmond Walling
Barbara Stanwyck….Julia O. Tredway
Fredric March….Loren Phineas Shaw
Walter Pidgeon…Frederick Y. Alderson
Shelley Winters….Eva Bardeman

Warner Home Entertainment presents Executive Suite. Screenplay by Ernest Lehman. Running time: 104 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release: May 6, 1954.

Warner Home Entertainment presents Barbara Stanwyck Signature Collection. Six movies on Five DVDs. DVD released Nov. 13, 2007.

The Movies

You don’t mess with Barbara Stanwyck for too long. She didn’t play helpless women eagerly waiting for a saviour in her best roles. Her main persona was the socialite wife motivated to take control of her destiny. The six films contained in Barbara Stanwyck – The Signature Collection show this leading lady didn’t spend too much time being yanked around.

Annie Oakley should not be used as a credible source when researching an American History paper. Annie hunts quail, challenges Toby Walker to a shooting contest and ends up headlining Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in a week. Her real rise to fame took a little longer. The Toby Walker business is confusing since the sharpshooter Annie challenged was Frank Butler. They were married by the time she hooked up with Buffalo Bill. Her big gun rival at the Wild West Show was Lillian Smith. Perhaps Hollywood was scared to have two women on the set with loaded rifles? The movie beefs up the imaginary romance by making Oakley part of a love triangle between Walker and Sitting Bull. The Indian Chief wants to give her a Little Big Horn action. Sitting Bull can’t tell the difference between reality and showbiz. He attempts to scalp a cowboy actor during a performance. For all the lies on the screen, Stanwyck looks truthful as Oakley. She looks like a marksman when she takes aim. Her cowgirl outfit reflects her sweet yet sassy disposition. Shame she wasn’t given a script that was proofed for historical accuracy.

My Reputation kicks up the melodrama. Stanwyck has been recently widowed. She’s does a heartbreaking reading of a “if you are reading this, I must be dead”? letter from her husband. She has to be strong for the sake of her two sons and her overbearing mother. The neighborhood ladies are a gossip mongers. She gets away from it all on a ski vacation. During her trip down the slope, she encounters an army officer. Things get warm fast in the snowy mountains. Tongues wag that she’s a slut having pounced on a new man instead of mourning longer for her dead husband. Her own mother still wear widow’s black for her dead spouse. My Reputation brings us back to those times when people hurt from social stigma.

East Side, West Side seethes with socialite scandals. James Mason is a philanderer who enjoys the company of ladies when his wife (Stanwyck) isn’t up for nightclub action. His old mistress (Gardner) has arrived back in the Big Apple and wants to take a bite out of him. He struggles to remain the good husband, but what man can resist the allure of Ava Gardner? If Frank Sinatra couldn’t, what chance does Mason have? Stanwyck gets a little gander-goose action with a writer (Heflin). There’s a murder with plenty of suspects including Mason and Stanwyck. Among the beauties on the screen, Gale Sondergaard sticks out as the hard-boiled blonde. What makes Gale unique is her ability to deliver lines without moving her teeth. Film archivist Ray Regis enjoyed impersonating her clenched jaw acting skills. The woman moved her lips less than Edgar Bergen. The real star of the film is the splendiferous William Frawley in the role of Bill the Bartender. I Love Lucy‘s Fred Mertz is mixing up the booze. The lead investigator is William Conrad. It’s like watching Cannon: The Early Years.

To Please a Lady stars Clark Gable, the ultimate lady pleaser. He’s a race car driver and Stanwyck is the rich journalist assigned to get the scoop. She’s a fierce no nonsense reporter. Gable is the Tony Stewart of the track. He’s a bad boy that doesn’t mind hearing boos when he collects the checkered flag. Amazingly enough, everyone smokes in gasoline alley. Things must not have been so combustible back then. What does catch fire is the passion between Gable and Stanwyck. Gable’s career goes rock bottom when he wins a race by forcing a rival driver to smash into a wreck. He’s banned from all the tracks. He ends up working for Joie Chitwood’s Auto Daredevils at state fairs. The big question is if Gable will be able to get himself back on the tracks in time for the Indy 500. The racing footage is thrilling as they have the camera zip around with the cars.

Jeopardy sticks Stanwyck, her husband and son on the highway for a vacation in Mexico. Her voice over as she describes their route sounds straight from a cheerful travelogue. But this would be no tourist board approved vacation flick. Their little secluded spot features a ratty pier. Naturally things go wrong and her husband ends up with his leg stuck in a bad place as the high tide approaching. Stanwyck has to hit the road to find help before she’s widowed by the waves. The Good Samaritan she locates turns out to be hiding from the local police. He’s more eager to help himself to the car instead of risking a chance of being busted. Jeopardy lives up to its title.

Executive Suite opens with a POV sequence as Avery Bullard, President of the Tredway Corporation, takes the elevator down from the executive suite to the lobby. He drops dead on the sidewalk and the film begins. Upon hearing the seeing the president’s corpse being loaded into an ambulance, a board of directors member does a stock shorting deal under the impression that the price will drop when the obituary hist the front page. Wall Street doesn’t panic. The director implements changes that will cause a dip in the Amazon share price and save his bacon. McDonald Walling, the company’s leading researcher, is the only chance of averting disaster. He doesn’t want to give up the lab for the board room. There’s plenty of business subterfuge with Tredway’s widow (Stanwyck) holding the fate of corporation in her board room vote. The film addresses corporations that are more beholding to stockholder dividends than the products they produce. Walling’s passionate speech at the end probably solicits laughter at Harvard’s MBA program. This is not a movie for outsourcers and shell gamers. This would make an interesting double feature with Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.

Barbara Stanwyck – The Signature Collection captures her in some of her finer roles. She sizzles with a grease stained Gable. She looks natural with a rifle in her hands. Remember to take a gander as she leans against the car with her cigarette smoldering in Jeopardy. While her role in Executive Suite is small, she brings the goods when she arrives in the board room. Stanwyck might be soft and lovable, but if she’ll knee you in the crotch if you cross her.

The DVDS

VIDEO:
The picture is 1.33:1. The transfers are rather clean.

AUDIO:
The soundtracks are in Mono. The subtitles are in English and French. Executive Suite features a commentary from Oliver Stone. He talks about how this film influenced his decision to make Wall Street.

EXTRAS:

My Reputation

Jan Savitt and His Band (10:07) is a musical short.

Daffy Doodles (7:09) is a Looney Tunes cartoon. Daffy Duck goes on a crime wave across Manhattan. He draws mustaches on posters, statues and people. Porky Pig is the only cop who can stop him.

Screen Guild Playhouse – 7/7/1947 (30:11) has Alexis Smith and Wayne Morris taking over the leads in this audio version of the film.

Lux Radio Theater Broadcast – 4/21/1947 (1:00:01) has Barbara Stanwyk and George Brent recreate their movie for the folks at home listening on the radio.

Theatrical Trailer (1:17) sells the film on the diary aspect including page turning wipes.

Executive Suite

Out For Fun (9:26) is a Pete Smith Specialty live action short. Dave O’Brien golfs and duck hunts. Nothing goes right. There’s plenty of hardcore slapstick fun. He heads indoors to build a model airplane. The glue gets all over the place. You can’t go wrong with a Pete Smith short. O’Brien also directed the short under the name David Barclay.

Billy Boy (6:00) is a Tex Avery cartoon. A farmer gets stuck with an abandoned goat. It devours everything. Tex has a great toe joke.

Theatrical Trailer (3:09) pushes the best selling novel pedigree.

Annie Oakley

Main Street Follies (21:16) has dancer Hal Le Roy and cast performing plenty of musical numbers.

Into Your Dance (7:10) is a Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Friz Freleng. The showboat arrives at a river town. Everybody packs the theater for a vibrant show hosted by a dog with a pegleg.

East Side, West Side

Stuff For Stuff (10:39) is a live action short about trade.

Counterfeit Cat (7:05) is a Tex Avery cartoon. A cat disguises himself as a dog to sneak inside a house to eat a bird. There’s a wonderfully brutal moment when the cat scalps a neighbor’s dog.

Theatrical Trailer (2:26) shows off the bestselling book and teases with the scandal.

To Please A Lady

Theatrical Trailer (2:02) lets us know “the air is electric with excitement!”? Clark Gable looks tough behind the wheel.

Jeopardy

Lux Radio Theater Broadcast – 3/15/54 (48:32) brings an audio ocean to the fans.

Theatrical Trailer (2:50) opens with Barbara Stanwyck leaning up against a car, cigarette smoldering and business in her eyes. There’s passion in the desert.

 

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Barbara Stanwyck – The Signature Collection
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE
8
THE VIDEO
9
THE AUDIO
8
THE EXTRAS
7
REPLAY VALUE
7
OVERALL
8
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

 

The Inside Pulse
If you enjoy Barbara Stanwyck in Elvis’ Roustabout and The Big Valley, you’ll take pleasure in seeing her in these six films.

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