How many words does it take to write a life (or actually half a life) of movie star Barbara Stanwyck? Admittedly, she had a long career – she started in a revue chorus in 1921 at the age of fourteen and played in her last episode of the television series The Colbys in 1987 at the age of eighty – but 1044 pages that take us only to 1940? As Liz Smith quipped in the Chicago Tribune, ‘She was a great actress, but not Winston Churchill.’
The panther stride
A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907–1940
by Victoria Wilson
Simon & Schuster, $48.99 hb, 1044 pp, 9780684831688
by Andrew Klevan
Palgrave Macmillan, $32.99 pb, 147 pp, 9781844576487
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Desley Deacon is an academic and writer living in Sydney .She has just completed a biography of Australian-born actress Judith Anderson and is currently exploring aspects of feminism before Feminism in the early 1960s. She is currently revising a manuscript, Four Husbands, a Lover, and a Friend: Mary McCarthy’s Experiments in Heterosexuality, for University of Chicago Press. She was formerly Professor of History at the Australian National University, where she is now Professor Emerita, and taught for a number of years at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Elsie Clews Parsons: Inventing Modern Life (University of Chicago Press), and Managing Gender: The State, the New Middle Class, and Women Workers 1830-1930 (OUP), and has co-edited, with Penny Russell and Angela Woollacott, two volumes on transnational biography.
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