best film:  Double Indemnity is a one of the greatest film noirs. The only real contender vying for the top slot as far as Barbara Stanyck’s career is concerned is the The Lady Eve. The edge goes to Billy Wilder’s noir here with stunning performances by Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson, and, of course, Stanwyck. Stanwyck is the archetypal and greatest femme fatale in cinema history- and the essential resource here Senses of Cinema agrees.


best performance:  Double Indemnity but this might be closer than the category above with Stanwyck’s work in Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve. She is superb alongside Henry Fonda in one of the Mount Rushmore screwball comedy films. Fonda, like MacMurray in Double Indemnity, is the foil and mark. It is Stanwyck that is in complete control of both pictures. She is beautiful, but that isn’t it- there have certainly been prettier faces in the history of noir and screwball comedy- she is single-minded, imposing, and intelligent.


Stanwyck’s as Phyllis Dietrichson in  Double Indemnity– scorching up the screen with her delivery of Billy Wilder’s dialogue


stylistic innovations/traits:  If one studies Stanwyck’s top four performances it becomes pretty clear that she could do it all- crime (noir), comedy (screwball), melodrama (Stella Dallas) and westerns (Forty Guns)- she has all the bases covered- quite a resume indeed. She has helped define these genres and architypes. Stanwyck’s filmography is deep – eighteen (18) films in the archives. If you compare Stanwyck to her peers- could the great Katharine Hepburn do film noir? Could Ingrid Bergman do a screwball comedy? Hard to think of a better case for Stanwyck.


from Stella Dallas– Stanwyck plays the titular Stella and delivers one of the finest acting moments in melodrama history


directors worked with:  Frank Capra (2) is the only director with more than one archiveable film in terms of collaborations with Stanwyck. But, the list of one-timers is impressive:  Billy Wilder, Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, Anthony Mann, Fritz Lang, Douglas Sirk, Robert Wise and Sam Fuller.


A strong revisionist western from Sam Fuller- Forty Guns– taking the Wyatt Earp Tombstone story as its base and modifying it. Barbara Stanwyck plays the head of the sort of Clanton family here but also the love interest of the rival US Marshall. It is a great role- but she is up for it- Stanwyck is commanding. She blows poor Barry Sullivan off the screen


top ten performances:

  1. Double Indemnity
  2. The Lady Eve
  3. Stella Dallas
  4. Forty Guns
  5. The Furies
  6. Ball of Fire
  7. Sorry, Wrong Number
  8. The Bitter Tea of General Yen
  9. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
  10. There’s Always Tomorrow


Stanwyck never attached herself to any one director- the Brooklyn-born actress will forever be part of some of cinema’s most important genres (here the screwball comedy in The Lady Eve)



archiveable films

1933- Baby Face
1933- The Bitter Tea of General Yen
1937- Stella Dallas
1939- Golden Boy
1940- Remember Tonight
1941- Ball of Fire
1941- Meet John Doe
1941- The Lady Eve
1944- Double Indemnity
1946- The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
1948- Sorry, Wrong Number
1950- No Man of Her Own
1950- The Furies
1952- Clash by Night
1953- Titanic
1954- Executive Suite
1956- There’s Always Tomorrow
1957- Forty Guns