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Publisher Description

“860 glittering pages” (Janet Maslin, The New York Times): The first volume of the full-scale astonishing life of one of our greatest screen actresses—her work, her world, her Hollywood through an American century.

Frank Capra called her, “The greatest emotional actress the screen has yet known.” Now Victoria Wilson gives us the first volume of the rich, complex life of Barbara Stanwyck, an actress whose career in pictures spanned four decades beginning with the coming of sound (eighty-eight motion pictures) and lasted in television from its infancy in the 1950s through the 1980s. Here is Stanwyck, revealed as the quintessential Brooklyn girl whose family was in fact of old New England stock; her years in New York as a dancer and Broadway star; her fraught marriage to Frank Fay, Broadway genius; the adoption of a son, embattled from the outset; her partnership with Zeppo Marx (the “unfunny Marx brother”) who altered the course of Stanwyck’s movie career and with her created one of the finest horse breeding farms in the west; and her fairytale romance and marriage to the younger Robert Taylor, America’s most sought-after male star.

Here is the shaping of her career through 1940 with many of Hollywood's most important directors, among them Frank Capra, “Wild Bill” William Wellman, George Stevens, John Ford, King Vidor, Cecil B. Demille, Preston Sturges, set against the times—the Depression, the New Deal, the rise of the unions, the advent of World War II, and a fast-changing, coming-of-age motion picture industry.

And at the heart of the book, Stanwyck herself—her strengths, her fears, her frailties, losses, and desires—how she made use of the darkness in her soul, transforming herself from shunned outsider into one of Hollywood’s most revered screen actresses.

Fifteen years in the making—and written with full access to Stanwyck’s family, friends, colleagues and never-before-seen letters, journals, and photographs. Wilson’s one-of-a-kind biography—“large, thrilling, and sensitive” (Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Town & Country)—is an “epic Hollywood narrative” (USA TODAY), “so readable, and as direct as its subject” (The New York Times). With 274 photographs, many published for the first time.

Biographies & Memoirs
November 12
Simon & Schuster

Customer Reviews

pawc ,

To the reviewer who said no ending,,..

...book says it goes up to 1940, so why would it have an ending--like up to her death. This book is the first of two books about Stanwyck, so it only would cover the first half of her life.

carolynlm51 ,


I am so disappointed in this book. I love to read biographies and I am a huge fan of Barbara Stanwyck, but I just can't finish this book! There is more written about the plot of each of her movies than there is about her life. It detracts from the flow of the book, and goes on page after page, until I completely lose interest and skip forward to find where the author talks about Barbara's life again. Alas, I am throwing in the towel because it feels as though I will be reading this for the rest of MY life! The book is too long as a result of the author detailing every movie that Barbara Stanwyck was in, and the thought of having to read a SECOND book in order to finish her biography is just TOO much for me!!

MassiMassi ,

unfocused and rambling

I've read many biographies of hollywood stars, and there is always some back story, hearsay, pieces missing in the timeline that the author has to fill in. Therein lies the skill of the biographer to quilt all the parts into a coherent story. Unfortunately, this is not. The first part describing the beginning of Ruby Stevens is "hurky-jerky". The names of friends who eventually become famous stars in their own rights is not noted. Why not include it in a footnote, if not in an apposition.

The history of Stanwyck is amazing and interesting especially as it parallels the rise of Hollywood. The problem is that the set up for B.S's movie roles go on too long. While the information might be interesting, it detracts from the story. All this other information should have been handled differently and more creatively. AS it stands its like reading two books that have been mashed into one.

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