Most people either remember Barbara Stanwyck as the matriarch of the '60s television show The Big Valley or as the scheming femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson in the film noir classic Double Indemnity. But my favorite Barbara Stanwyck part was in Preston Sturges’s The Lady Eve. That is until this box set, but I’ll reveal that part later.
Stanwyck was always beguiling, yet this new DVD set, Barbara Stanwyck: The Signature Collection, exposes a new audience to her vast range of acting talent. It features some lesser-known films that have sailed under the radar, undeservedly.
Annie Oakley, a Western from 1935, is the oldest film in the set, and shows a harder-edged Stanwyck as the legendary female cowboy. It’s probably the most familiar of the movies to the general public. It’s not a half-bad effort, but not one of her best.
Executive Suite, directed by the legendary Robert Wise, stars Stanwyck as an unflappable, unemotional business heiress. This intriguing look at the business world has a commentary track by Oliver Stone.
The one surprise for me was To Please A Lady. The thought of a movie with Clark Gable as a race car driver was not appealing. But the movie not only gives a great inside look into racing in the 1940s, but brings a new depth of character to Barbara Stanwyck, as she plays a tough career reporter who is at the top of her game. That is until she meets and falls for the bad-boy race car driver, played by Gable. There is genuine chemistry between the two. This is the role that now rivals Stanwyck’s turn in The Lady Eve as my favorite.
The set has a couple of clunkers. My Reputation is a sappy soap opera — a perfect example of old movie overacting at its worst. Jeopardy’s plot had potential, but was disappointing. I was looking forward to this psychological thriller but the movie lacked any real depth.
The prints are sharp. A lot of work went into getting the best possible picture out of the negatives. The audio is clear, brought to a new level of clarity. This is a well-thought out and packaged boxed set. And while not every movie is a winner, overall The Signature Collection delivers.