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A standard paste-up celebrity bio of durable star Stanwyck--with lots of dependence on old fan-magazine clippings. . . and no surprises. As Stanwyck's fans already know, she was born Ruby Stevens in Brooklyn, orphaned early, brought up in a series of foster-homes (with funding from an older sister). As a result, she became self-sufficient, plucky, ambitious, yearning to be a dancer--and soon ""the homeless waif from Brooklyn with a will of iron"" got her first teenage/chorus-girl job. Acting roles on 1920s Broadway followed--notably The Noose and Burlesque. So did impetuous marriage to vaudeville star Frank Fay: Barbara ""was desperate for affection and a sense of belonging,"" on the rebound from a beloved beau's sudden death. But while Barbara's career in films started soaring (with initial help from Fay), her husband was in decline; egotistical and jealous, ""only booze made it possible for him to live with his worst fear, that of becoming Mr. Barbara Stanwyck."" So, despite Stanwyck's valiant attempts to hold things together, there was an ugly Hollywood divorce--with fights over adopted son Dion. . . whom Stanwyck treated coldly almost from the start anyway. (""It seems incomprehensible that a woman renowned on Hollywood's sound stages for her generosity and warmth could have a relationship with her son so devoid of those same qualities."") And then she was unlucky in love again--with a short-lived marriage to Robert Taylor, who dumped her. Meanwhile, of course, her prolific film-work was peaking (Stella Dallas, Lady Eve, Double Indemnity), then shifting into television and semi-retirement. . . with a recent comeback, at 75, in the Thorn Birds miniseries (""a tour de force""). DiOrio, author of similar workups for Bobby Darin and Judy Garland, does a passable job with Stanwyck's professional side--with some data, and occasional bits of opinion, on almost all the substantial roles; he repeatedly salutes her hard-working, no-nonsense approach, her natural beauty, and her conservative politics. (""Straight as an arrow, patriotic as an American flag waving in the breeze. . . ."") But, with little fresh material and no special appreciation of her on-screen presence, this drably written, inoffensive rundown is for old-timey, undemanding fans only--who may remember some of the fanzine interviews quoted here.

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 1983
Publisher: Putnam