Monday, August 31, 2009

I couldn't find a picture of today's book - so I settled instead for a picture from a scene out of my favorite Barbara Stanwyck movie, Christmas in Connecticut. I love that movie - and every year when I watch it I ask myself that inevitable question, Why don't I decorate the Christmas tree while wearing an evening gown? There's really no excuse not to.

It's probably for the best that I couldn't find a picture of the book because the cover featured a picture of Barbara holding scissors and acting like she was about to stab someone - not exactly a feel-good kind of cover.

Today's book, "Orphaned at the age of four and shunted from one uncaring foster home to another, the tough little Ruby Stevens - later to rename herself Barbara Stanwyck - vowed never to be anything but the best. This intimate and revealing biography, based on extensive and exclusive interviews with those who have known her best, tells for the first time the full story of the legendary Barbara Stanwyck's tempestuous personal life and brilliant movie, television, and stage career."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I have mixed feelings about today's book. The story of Barbara Stanwyck's life was an interesting one, although far from original, but the biographer really annoyed me. Despite spending several pages detailing the physical abuse Stanwyck suffered at the hands of her first husband, and the affairs her second husband had, the author seems to blame Stanwyck solely for her marital troubles - even going so far as to imply that she ruined husband number # 1's life and career. Pardon me for having trouble having any sympathy for an abuser, but all I have to say in response to the author's claim is horsepuckey.

  • I do, however, agree with her claim that Stanwyck was a crappy mother - who adopted a baby in order to save her troubled marriage, saddled him with the name Dion, and then shipped him off to boarding school as soon as she was done using him for added publicity. That's the risk that I always run when reading a biography about someone from Hollywood's Golden Age - I want to know more, but I'm always worried that I'll have a hard time enjoying their movies without thoughts of what horrible people they were crashing in on me. But then I think of Gwyneth Paltrow and the movie Emma, and I realize that it's okay, because apparently someone can annoy the snot out of me and I can still enjoy their movies . . . well one of them anyway . . . and if Paltrow ever did a second decent movie I'm sure I could enjoy it as well.

  • While reading this book, I had the same feeling that I always have when reading a biography about an actor - that horror movie "Don't go into the basement" feeling, as I read about them doing one stupid thing after another with their lives. Sometimes it's exhausting to read about, although there's nothing like reading about someone else completely screwing up their own life to give me the delightful sense that my own life makes perfect sense - so all was not lost.

  • I was disappointed that the book didn't mention any fun behind-the-scenes information about Christmas in Connecticut. That happens nearly all of the time with celebrity autobiographies - the author focuses almost exclusively on their stupid reasons very getting married repeatedly, and the dissolution of those marriages, and doesn't focus nearly enough on their career. I wanted to hear some good dirt from the set of Christmas in Connecticut. I was also hoping for a color photograph because it's always bothered me that I don't know what color the couches in the living room are. But maybe I should be happy that I don't know. There was one special episode of Hazel that was in color and I discovered that the couch and curtains that I always imagined matched actually clashed in the most heinous way and now I've never been able to go back to imagining them matching. There are some bells you just can't un-ring.

All in all, it was an interesting book - but probably one that would only appeal to a die-hard Stanwyck fan who, nevertheless, has the ability to overlook her being a slightly awful person.