Barbara Stanwyck

  1. Nancy Carroll, The Dance of Life, 1928.   As yet unknown to the movies, La Barb starred in Broadway’s Burlesquehit but Carroll was a safer bet for for the “all-talking, all-dancing, all-singing, all-star production of stagedom’s hit of hits.” Another Carol (Lombard) headlined Paramount’s next version,Swing High, Swing Low, 1937.  And, ten years later, Betty Grable headed the Fox take,When My Baby Smiles at Me. 
  2. Jean Harlow, Red-Headed Woman, 1931.  A major star is born…  The blonde Harlow beat off eager competition from Stanwyck, Clara Bow, Joan Crawford, Lilian Roth – even Greta Garbo! MGM’s  Marie Dresslershot some gag pin-ups in a red wig.  King Geoprge V preferred his VIP copy of what Hollywood Reportert called “the sexiest performance since Clara Bow discovered ‘It.”  HM has better luck than his subjects as the film was first banned in the UK.  Oh, it’s good to be a king. 
  3. Kay Francis, The Jewel Robbery, 1932.       Warners was sharing her contract with Columbia – a few years after Warners had turned her down and her husband, comic Frank Fey, had offered to secretly pay her salary (and her dresses) if Columbia czar Harry Cohn signed her.
  4. Jean Harlow, Red-Headed Woman, 1932.       Harlow was on the MGM books – and, therefore, cheaper. Not for much longer.
  5. Carole Lombard, Brief Moment, 1933.       Too busy trying to help out husband Frank Fay, now that his film career had hit the skids, by playing two weeks at the New York Palace with him. A Star Is Born, 1937, is said to be based on Stanwyck’s rise and Fay’s fall. Among other such up/down LA couples.
  6. Ruth Chattertton, Female, 1933.    La Barb was the inevitable choice for Alison Drake  but was on tour with her husband, Frank Fay. Enter: Chattertion Frank Fey.  Enter: Chatterton was the first woman to run a car favctory. Eighty yeara later, it happened for real when Mary Barra became chairwoman and ceo of General Motors.
  7. Kay Francis, Wonder Bar, 1933.      Another of the  Warner musicals that broke every rule in  the book –  before the book, the Will  Hays Productin Code, was writ.  From a Busby Berkeley S&M (and murder) dance routine to ‘Going To Heaven On A Mule’featuring Al Jolson, St Peter and all the heavenly angels in black-face. 
  8. Kay Francis, British Agent, 1934.    “I’d read the book twice… so absorbing. But it’s a man story. No reason why I should play second fiddle. I’ve worked too hard to get to the top to give up the top spot.” She felt Leslie Howard (unavailable for her Forbidden, 1932) was made to order for the lead; he later acted it out for real.   
  9. Bette Davis, Housewife, 1934.  La Barb and Genevieve Tobin were early choices for  the advert copy writer trying yop steal her boss, George Brent, way from his wife, Anna Dvorak.  “My God,” snorted  Bette, “what a horror!”  So she refused to turn up for her next Warner Bros trifle, as , Perry Mason’s secretary, Della Street, in The Case of the Howling Dog.  More like the howling movie star! 
  10. Luise Rainer, The Good Earth, 1936.      An early plan, in 1935, was Stanwyck and Nils Asther  for the Chinese couple,  O-Lan and Wang Lung.  Rainer was  the first (and only) consecutive Best Actress Oscar winner…  in the first MGM film to credit production chief Irving Thalberg – after his shock death at 36. His boss, LB Mayer, had told him: “The public won’t buy pictures about American farmers, and you want to give them Chinese farmers?”  Thalberg, as usual, was right – three Oscars from six nominations! 

  11. Virginia Bruce, Wife, Doctor and Nurse, 1936.      La Barb was announced as Steve, the nurse in love with Loretta Young’s medico husband, Warner Baxter. Then, RKO changed its mind about loaning her to Fox. MGM was not so fussy… or not where Bruce was concerned.
  12. Claudette Colbert, Midnight, 1937.    This takes some believing. Marlene  Dietrich was supposed to be playing … Eve Peabody (!).  With Fritz Lang directing!!  Evidently, there was a name change by the time Barbara Stanwyck was asked to take over – and before La Colbert actually became Eve… and says: “Don’t forget, every Cinderella has her midnight.” Mitchell Leisen won the directing credits, although two crews were used, Hal Walker directing the second, to help free Ameche for The Story of Alexander Graham Bell. Fox didn’t want him phoning it in… 
  13. Katharine Hepburn, Holiday, 1938.      And so Stanwyck never worked with Cary Grant.
  14. Bette Davis, Dark Victory, 1938.    When still at MGM, David O Selznick bought the Bankhead play in 1935 – not for her (“too Broadway”) but for Garbo and Fredric March. However, Gone With The Wind got in the way…  Gloria Swanson swnted to be the  socialite going blind with a brain tumour. “Can’t be any good if Selznick wants to sell it,” said the Columbia czar Harry Cohn.  Swanson quit Tinseltown for New York.  Next?  Barbara Stanwyck and Merle Oberon were keen, sniffing Oscar on the horizon. Warner Bros paid $50,000 for it – for Miriam Hopkins. Or Kay Francis. They were still pondering when Bette Davis pounced, winning her  third Oscar nomination in five years, allthough the head bbro Jack Warner had said ” who wants to see someone going blind?” Hah! Warner He built three new sound stages with the profits.
  15. Virginia Grey, Thunder Afloat, 1939.    A-sub-hunting they will go…  Not every MGM production took off as planned. La Barb and Franchot Tone became Virginia and Chester Morris in the tale of rival New England tugboat skippers going to war.  With each other.  And  the WWI Germans.   One of the two scripters was credited in full as Commander Harvey Haislip.
  16. Laraine Day, Foreign Correspondent, 1940.    Producer Walter Wanger Alfred Hitchcock was “fat, forty, and full of fire.” But that didn’t help him land total opposites Joan Fontaine or Barbara Stanwyck as the leading lady of the titular hero, Joel McCrea –  unjustly smeared in  Hollywood as  the poor man’s’ Gary Cooper. Discussing the drowning  scene in the plane,  Laraine said that co-star George Sanders – such a British  gent! –  took advantage of being undereater to  get his hands under her dress.  Hitch tried to get Stanwyck again in 1942.
  17. Ellen Drew, The Night of January 16, 1941.       Paramount’s whodunnit became who’lldoit as Stanwyck-Joel McCrea turned into Patricia Morrison-Ray Milland, ending more humbly with Ellen Drew-Robert Preston… after Ellen out-Drew Lucille Ball, Claudette Colbert and Paulette Goddard to the glory.
  18. Gene Tierney, Belle Starr, 1941.      Fox pursued her for Starr, nee Shirley, the wife of Randolph Scott.
  19. Veronica Lake, Sullivan’s Travels, 1941.   Jerry Seinfeld’s favourite film because of its content – the importance of fun and laughter.” One story says after their Lady Eve, 1940, Barbara Stanwyck was Preston Sturges’ choice for The Girl.  Rubbish! He always had Ronni Lake in mind, since loving her in Wanted Wings, 1940. Paramount suits preferred Lucille Ball, Frances Farmer, Ruby Keeler, Ida Lupino in the classic inspired by John Garfield’s hobo days. Sturgess remained resolute… Even though she never gelled with Joel McCrea (he refused to join her in I Married A Witch)and that her (ssh!) pregnancy went from six to eight months. She had her daughter, Elaine Detlie, exactly one month after shooting wrapped. McCrea relented five years later and they made the 1946 Western, Ramrod– helmed by her then husband, the one ye-patched Hungarian director André De Toth.
  20. Priscilla Lane, Saboteur, 1941.      Alfred Hitchcock didn’t get his own way when loaned out by David Selznick. For his heroine, Hitch wanted Barbara Stanwyck and had to make do with borrowing Warner’s  Lane – not  very Hitchcockian. Apart from a few sections, notably  the Statue of Liberty climax,  the same could be said of the over-talky,  propaganda thriller. Robert Cummings (!) became the hero – La Barb would’ve eaten him  alive! 

  21. Rosalind Russell, Take A Letter, Darling, 1942.    Director Mitchell Leisen lost Claudette Colbert and then, Stanwyck – before winning “the funniest woman ever.”
  22. Ingrid Bergman, For Whom The Bell Tolls, 1942.    Barbara Britton, Frances Farmer, Betty Field, Paulette Goddard, Susan Hayward and Barbara Stanwyck were seen for Gary Cooper’s gal. Plus the French Annabella, Mexico’s Esther Fernández,  true Brit  Vivien Leigh and Germany’s Luise Rainer Rainer and Vera Zorina. However, Ernest Hemingway insisted on Bergman (and Cooper) because  he’d had them in mind when writing the book. In case Ingrid changed her mind, producer-director Sam Wood had  the Austro-Hungarian Lenora Aubert waiting in the wings. And La Barb went on to earn $400,000 in 1944, making her America’s highest paid woman.
  23. Priscilla Lane, Saboteur, 1942.     Alfred Hitchcock lost her again. And Gary Cooper as the hero. And Harry Carey as the villain. So he gave Lane a Stanwyckian coiffeure.
  24. Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce, 1944.       James M Cain’s Mildred was an archetypical Stanwyckian broad – climbing over (weak) husbands to the top. So Stanwyck  passed..!  Bette Davis declined “The Kind of Woman that most men want – BUT SHOULDN’T HAVE!” Seeing Mildred as herself, a hard-working, self-sacrificing mother, Crawford swooped, sweet-talking producer Jerry Wald out of Olivia De Havilland, Myrna Loy, Rosalind  Russell, Anne Sheridan and  Stanwyck.  Director Michael Curtiz did not want :the has-been,”: and was forever cursing  – mainly in Hungarian – “her and her shoulder  pads!”  But they won her the Oscar while Davis soon had her first flop in 50 films with the aptly named Deception.  Bette always maintained that Crawford (and Miriam  Hopkins) lusted after her body as well as her success. Bette  played Joan, or a script based on her – with plenty of her “Bless you!” lines thrown in by Davis – in The Star, 1952.

  25. Patricia Neal, The Fountainhead, 1949.    
    “Bitterly disappointed,” Stanwyck quit Warners. “Missy” had convinced Jack Warner to buy her Ann Rynd’s best-seller: the first film role she had chased in years. She wanted Humphrey Bogart to co-star. Things didn’t gell, the project was shelved and when it passed to King Vidor,  “he just didn’t think that I was sexy enough – and he is certainly entitled to his opinion. You have to take it in stride, professionally, personally. Otherwise, we’d all cut our throats.” Vidor chose Cooper and Neal (soon to be lovers, like Cooper and Stanwyck in 1941). Author Ayn Rand had always wanted Garbo. Of course.

  26. Bette Davis, Deception, 1945.       The Louis Verneuil play – known variously as Monsieur Lamberthier, Jealous and Obsession – was bought as a tandem for Stanwyck and Paul Henreid. He was smitten. She wasn’t.
  27. Loretta Young, The Accused, 1949.      Rather obvious early choice for William Dieterle’s rather dour and dull psychological crime drama.
  28. Bette Davis, All About Eve, 1950.
  29. Lizabeth Scott, The Company She Keeps, 1950.   Producer Hal B Wallis bought the script for La Barb as an ex-con starting over. He  never made it and sold it to Howard Hughes, who was then (surprisingly) kind enough to borrow Scott from Wallis’ players. (Screen debut for a six-month-old Jeff Bridges!)
  30. Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday, 1950.     An inexplicably vindictive Harry Cohn refused any idea of “the fat Jewish broad” reprising her Broadway triumph on film. He even considered the veteran Stanwyck – 14 years older than Judy Katharine Hepburn campaigned to make Cohn change his mind and Judy won the Oscar away from, among others, Bette Davis in All About Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.

  31. Shirley Booth, Come Back, Little Sheba, 1952.    Producer Hal Wallis snapped up for rights for his favourite actress.  However, after seeing the Broadway hit, Barbara told him to forget it – Shirley should repeat her stage role on-screen and would  win an Oscar.  Stanwyck was right (as usual).  On both counts.
  32. Gloria Grahame, Human Desire, 1953.    Austrian director Fritz Lang hated the title.  “What other kind of desire is there?” Brando hated everything else. “I cannot believe that the man who gave us the über dark Mabuse, the pathetic child murderer in M and the futuristic look at society, Metropolis, would stoop to hustling such crap.”  Lang was also considering Olivia, Rita Hayworth and Jennifer Jones for Glenn Ford’s lover…. While Hollywood gossip hen Louella Parsons  said the producers wanted Lang’s 1951 Clash by Night line-up: Pau; Douglas, Robert Ryan and Barbara  Stanwyck.
  33. Dorothy McGuire, Three Coins in the  Fountain, 1953.     Director Jean Negulesco was so impressed by  Stanwyck-Clifton Webb in Titanic, he put them in his next project – alongside Jeanne Crain, Gene Tierney. Webb, alone, survived the changes into McGuire, Maggie McNamara, Jean Peters and CinemaScope.  
  34. Claire Trevor, The High and the Mighty, 1953.      All aboard the flying Grand Hotel – a DC-4 piloted by John Wayne and Robert Stack and stuffed to the flaps with the kind of mixed cliché bag of passengers that continued into the Airport films and wase torn to shreds by the Airplane comedies. Tasty or not, the roles were basically cameos. And, therefore, beneath the high and mighty Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Ida Lupino, Dorothy McGuire and Ginger Rogers. They all rejected the sassy old broad, described by New York Times critic Bosley Crowther as a gallant lady of much circulation. Trevor won an Oscar nod; La Barb would have won it.
  35. Gloria Grahame, Human Desire, 1953.      At first, for the re-make of  the 1937 Jean Renoir/Jean Gabin French classic, La bête humaine, director Fritz Lang didn’t look much further than his 1951 Clash By Night stars: Stanwyck, Paul Douglas, Robert Ryan.  Forgetting that the perfect Vickie was also in that movie. Marilyn Monroe. 
  36. Ida Lupino, The Big Knife, 1955.      An obvious first suggestion for the movie star’s wife as La Stanwyck starred in  two previous versions of  Clifford Odets plays: Golden Boy, 1939,  and Clash By Night, 1952.
  37. Arlene Dahl, Slightly Scarlet, 1956.     Announced for the bad sister, the  nymphomaniacal kleptomaniac (Rhonda Fleming was the goodie) when  the film kept the faith with novelist James M Cain’s title: Love’s Lovely Counterfeit.
  38. Bette Davis, Storm Centre, 1956.    For the first Hollywood movie daring to denounce the McCarthy Witch-hunt Era, director Stanley Kramer had the bright idea of allowing Mary Pickford the comeback she wanted. She was delighted with real-life story of a small Oklahoma town’s librarian, Ruth W Brown, being fired for refusing  to remove a book on Communism from her shelves.  Pickford quit, saying her first film sine 1933 should be in colour. And  it was a colour that ruined her casting.  Calling it a pro-red script, Hollywood’s right-wingers, such as the dreaded gossip hen Hedda Hopper, pressured her into  leaving  the project.  Also getting the Hopper bullying – tantamount to approving censoring free speech  and book-banning –  Irene Dunne, Barbara Stanwyck and Loretta Young fled.  Kramer quit and new team got Bette’s fearless OK.  “An exciting project… a subject I felt important to make a film about. The film was not a success… ‘and not in my opinion, because of the subject matter. I never felt it turned out to be a good picture.” Consequently, it was the only film directed by co-scenarist Daniel Taradash.
  39. Jo Van Fleet, Gunfight at the OK Corral, 1956.       In the previous year, when Paramount was  trying to land Humphrey Bogart as Doc Holliday, the LA Times insisted that the veteran Stanwyck was up for Doc’s lover, Kate Fisher. 
  40. Rita Hayworth, Pal Joey, 1957.     Friends from way back, Fred Astaire’s choreographer Hermes Pan lost the battle (for an earlier project)  for Stanwyck to be rich Vera – the sugar mommy of Pal Kirk Douglas.

  41. Anouk Aimée, La dolce vita, 1959.     Italian director genius Federico Fellini always wanted Barbara in the second of the three major masterpieces. While certain  rumours insist the proffered role was Dolores, a sad, old nympho (refused by Luise Rainer and later axed from the scenario), it is more likely that it was an earlier version of Maddalena, a cynical jet-setter living for the pleasures of the moment.
  42. Dorothy McGuire, This  Earth Is  Mine, 1959.     A somewhat typically Stanwyckian woman of driving ambition became an  odd departure for sweet McGuire.
  43. Mary Astor, Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, 1964.     Legend: director Robert Aldrich asked Stanwyck to replace the “ill” Joan Crawford opposite her nemesis Bette Davis in the quick follow-up to Whatever HappenedTo Baby Jane? “Misinterpretation,” she calls it. “He didn’t offer the role to me. I didn’t turn  it  down.” Aldrich had wanted her for “a little vignette…  about three of four days’’ work…  I read it and I didn’t care to play it – as simple as that.” But she added: “I’m a tough old broad from Brooklyn. I’ll go on until they shoot me.” (It became Astor’s final role).
  44. Lila Kedrova, Zorba The Greek, 1965.
  45. Susan Hayward, Heat of Anger, TV, 1972.      Ill-health ruled out being the lawyer with a young associate in the pilot for a series with James Stacy  to be called Fitzgerald and Pride.
  46. Liv Ullmann, Lost Horizon, 1973.      Wisely refused the appalling conception (and execution) of musicalising the  1937 classic, as badly cast as any of the same producer Ross Hunter’s Airport series.
  47. Katharine Hepburn, On Golden Pond, 1980.    Kate badly hurt an arm playing tennis  (at 73) and required surgery. La Barb was first reserve in case Hepburn didn’t  recover in time.  Jane Fonda had bought the rights to film the Ernest Thompson play in order to finally win her Dad an acting Oscar.  Stanwyck had made three films with him in the 30s/40s: The Mad Miss Manton, You Belong To Mne, The Lady Eve. Kate turned up for work with a gift for Henry – one of Spencer Tracy’s old hats. They both won Oscars (a fourth for Kate).  It was the first time they’d worked together Indeed, the first time they had ever met! 
  48. Jane Wyman, Falcon Crest, TV, 1981-1990.       Passed on the soap opera lead of Angela Channing, not a patch of her typically ballsy matriarch of the Barkleys on TV western, The Big Valley, 1965-1969. Nor on her Conny Colby Patterson, when she joined the soaps for her 102nd and final screen role, in Dynasty and The Colbys, 1985-1986.
  49. Claudette Colbert, The Two Mrs Granvilles, TV, 1986.     La Barb  was most  keen to play Alice Granville but director John Erman preferred giving Colbert one last meaty role.
  50. Bette Davis, The Whales of August, 1986. Lilian Gish and Bette Davis were just perfect – “with incomparable grace and gumption,” said the Washington Post’ – as of aged sisters reflectng upon thejr lives in coastal Maine.  But Hepburn and Barbara  Stanwyck had been considered  – and sounded  another  powerful  match. UK director Lindsay Anderson told Gish, 94, “Miss Gish, you have just given me a perfect close-up.”  “She should,: snapped Davis.  “She invented ’em.” 








 Birth year: 1907Death year: 1990Other name: Casting Calls:  50