Friday, December 6, 2013

On the Bedside Table - A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True by Victoria Wilson



I found myself wondering just how much life Barbara Stanwyck lived up to 1940 to have the first volume of a biography encompass so many pages.  In reading Victoria Wilson's first volume on the life of cinema great Barbara Stanwyck, I figured out why.  You not only get Stanwyck's life, but the History of the World Part I as well.  Lots of bang for your buck.

Let me say this, Ms. Wilson is an excellent writer.  It is my understanding she is also an editor of some renown and this might be the crux of the problem with this book.  It needed to be edited, it needed a machete.  I found myself getting lost in the book, there is so much context placing, so much detail of people who touched Stanwyck's life that you lose the subject at hand.  Then there are the plot rehashes of the films, hers, Frank Fay's and Robert Taylor's.  All of this should have been cut to the bone.  Unlike reading Gary Giddins' Bing Crosby: Pocketful of Dreams - The Early Years, reading True Steel I am *not* left wanting, panting, waiting for the second volume as I have been (and am) with the Crosby book.  I'm afraid of reliving the History of the World Part II along with the remaining 42 years of Stawyck's life in the next volume. 

Stanwyck was famously private and I think she really did succeed in keeping a good deal of her life private as she wished.  Wilson's research is impeccable, her writing is mostly engaging.  But I can't help feeling exhausted in reading it.  I am sure this was a labor of love, a volume of this heft had to have been.  But there is no warmth in it.

Stanwyck will always remain a bit of an enigma.  I think the one tiny thing that shows me a lot of what I need to see or know about Stanwyck can be seen in this video clip here

You can order the book here in kindle (which I did much easier to handle such a tome) as well as a true brick of a book.

Others might find this more engaging than I do, I adore Stanwyck and do not feel she was so much ill-served (she wasn't) but she was lost in the details.  ymmv.

1 comment:

Jef Roberts said...

Thanks for the review. I love Stanwyck, but was approaching the book with some trepidation because of the scale of the project. And sigh, you have confirmed my fears. Perhaps I will find a library copy of this, but maybe will pass on purchasing it for my own library.