... I got third place in the Film-Classics Writing Contest?! WELL, I DID!!
The following Honorable Mention is presented to Natalie from the In the Mood blog for her engaging composition skills, article depth, and firm knowledge of the Classic Hollywood Era as represented in her article, “Barbara Stanwyck – the Great Lady”. Congradulations for this outstanding achievement in the 2012 Annual Classic Hollywood Writing Contest.
Third place means no prizes. As if I cared! I didn't get last, guys, I got third. Third out of thirty. I am still the happiest person in the world. And for those of you whom want to read the article I won with, here it is:
Barbara Stanwyck – The Great Lady
The Great Man's Lady (1942) is a favorite movie of mine. It stars two actors that I love, Joel McCrea and Brian Donlevy; but its leading lady, Miss Barbara Stanwyck, is the finest of them all. The Great Man's Lady is Stanwyck's movie all the way, and it happened to be one of Stany's personal favorites:
On the anniversary birthday of Ethan Hoyt, the luminous founder of Hoyt City, the citizens of the city have gathered together to dedicate a statue to this great man. On the same day, a young girl-biographer has finally persuaded Hannah Sempler to tell Ethan Hoyt’s true story – including her part in it. But this girl-biographer doesn’t get what she expects. She expects a story about the great man, what she gets is a story about the great man’s lady.
One of the most winning qualities of a Stanwyck performance is Stany’s ability to live in a character – to completely separate herself from Miss Barbara Stanwyck and bring the character to vibrant life. The Great Man’s Lady is no exception to the rule. As Stanwyck put it herself, “When I'm doing a role, a good role, I'm being someone other than me.” There are Stanwyck traits, to be sure – the strength, the humor, the faithfulness – but the character lives.
Hannah Sempler-Hoyt is one of my very favorite film characters. There’s the standard toughness that comes with being a Stanwyck character, but, in this case, it’s toughness wrought on the prairies rather than the city streets. In addition to that, Hannah is an idealist – if you’ll allow me to call her that – which I love. And she’s a girl whose untiringly unselfish devotion to the man she loves would be nothing short of awe-inspiring if she had really lived [although, I’ll be the first to admit, I find it inspiring whether she lived or not].
Throughout the movie we see Hannah mature from a wide-eyed young lady, to an elderly woman with more experience than my whole generation has combined. As I see it, there are four extensions of Hannah:
First of all, bright-eyed Hannah Sempler who falls in love with idealistic Ethan Hoyt and willingly rides into the wilderness of the West with him. She’s a bit naïve, but I find no reason to doubt that she’ll be the best of the best eventually. As she smiles through the rain that’s dousing their “wedding”, we know she’ll stick out what storms might come.
Then there’s Hannah Hoyt, the young pioneer wife, faithfully following her man wherever he goes. She’s the unconquerable spirit that pushes him onward. When she and Ethan arrive at his “Hoyt City” (which happens to be one sign-post, reading “Hoyt City Square” in the middle of nowhere) she’s not deterred in the slightest. As a matter of fact, at a time when Ethan should be encouraging his young wife and telling her about his plans for their city, she’s the one encouraging him, because it’s become her dream too.
Next, when Ethan thinks that Hannah has died and he marries another woman, Hannah Sempler gives up the man she loves because she’s in his way. She divorces him, not because she doesn’t love him, but because she always will, unselfishly.
Unfortunately, without his shining star, Ethan has taken the easy road; he’s become as unscrupulous as the politicians he and Hannah tried to so hard to keep away from their city. When she realizes what’s happened, Hannah goes back to Ethan for a moment and lights the light of his ideals again, as she always had. Then, she lets him ride out of her life – the same way he came in.
At the end of the movie, we see Hannah as a very old lady. We see her go to visit Ethan’s newly-unveiled statue, and, at the foot of the statue, she makes her last unselfish motion. She rips up the wedding license she’s carried around her whole life, with a softly spoken, “Forever, Ethan. Now no one can change that. Forever.” No one will ever have evidence to smear the memory of Ethan Hoyt – no one will ever know she loved him until the day she died.
There are so many different parts of Hannah and Barbara Stanwyck plays them all so well. Each facet comes together to make up one wonderful character – one wonderful performance. There’s more than one chance for Barbara, with her natural sense of humor, to make us smile. At the same, time there’s a whole story of scenes for Barbara, with her talent for showing emotion on-screen, to rip our hearts out. Then, there are a dozen places for the tough, self-reliant Stanwyck image we all know to portray itself. And there are just enough scenes where Stany doesn’t have anything to say which gives her time to show off the range of emotion in her eyes.
I’ve probably written this a million times, but Stanwyck performances are all in her gorgeous eyes. Her best scenes aren’t the ones where she’s having a major breakdown. Not to say those scenes aren’t fantastic, but it’s the silent scenes (the ones where she doesn’t say a word) that are so stunning. She’ll just stare into the distance, maybe she’ll sneak in a word or two, but her eyes say so much more than her lips ever could. Her eyes will tear your heart out or they’ll light up your whole world. There’s something almost mysterious in her eyes a lot of the time – when you see her pull a gun out of its holster then stop to think for a second and in that second you see the expression in her eyes change and you wonder what on earth is going on in that beautiful head of hers, you’ll know what I mean.
The trailer for The Great Man’s Lady said, “Barbara Stanwyck – She stirs the heart like a challenge! In the greatest performance of her career!” You know, it may just very well be the finest performance of her career. I say that without hesitation because, despite her worthy competition: Oscar-nominated, sacrificial mothers; nightclub gals who rhumba their way into our hearts; murderers as cold as the North Atlantic; and bedridden hypochondriacs – the “woman behind the men who built an empire” is truly stunning. Is it a heart-stirring performance? You bet. It’s unforgettable.
Until Later On~