The Barbara Stanwyck Collection: Universal Backlot Series [3 Discs] [DVD]

This set revisits the magic of screen goddess Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990) with six films headlined by the legendary actress between 1937 and 1956. 1937's Internes Can't Take Money casts Stanwyck as a desperate woman who turns to the legendary Dr. Kildare (Joel McCrea) for help getting her child back from the mob, while 1942's The Great Man's Lady casts Stanwyck as a 100-year-old woman who fondly reflects on her life and remembers how a key sacrifice that she made elevated her husband (Joel McCrea) to greatness. Stanwyck teams up with a pre-"Love that Bob" Robert Cummings in 1946's The Bride Wore Boots, a comedy about a bookish man klutzily attempting to win back the love of his horse breeder wife. The drama The Lady Gambles casts Stanwyck as Joan Booth, a troubled woman whose addiction to gambling threatens to destroy her life. 1953's All I Desire enlists Stanwyck as an older stage actress returning to the home and family she left behind a decade prior. Finally, the 1956 drama There's Always Tomorrow reunites Double Indemnity headliners Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray; Stanwyck plays a fashion designer with a very rocky romantic history struggling over her feelings for a married man (MacMurray).
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Overview

Synopsis

The Lady Gambles
Barbara Stanwyck plays a woman whose addiction to gambling all but ruins her life. Stanwyck's husband Robert Preston tries to stand by her side, but even he is driven away by her gambling mania. Stanwyck lies, cheats and steals in order to raise capital for her addiction, descending from comparative wealth to grinding poverty in the process. Eventually she is reduced to gambling for penny-ante stakes in back alleys, before she is rescued by her still-faithful spouse. The Lady Gambles includes an appearance by young Tony Curtis, in the bit role of a helpful bellhop. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Internes Can't Take Money
Pulp fiction writer Max Brand's 1936 creation Dr. Kildare made his screen debut in the amiable person of Joel McCrea in this well-received Paramount production. Aided by Janet (Barbara Stanwyck, young Dr. Kildare saves the life of gangster boss Hanlon (Lloyd Nolan), who awards the intern $1,000 for his troubles. Janet, who is being blackmailed by Innes (Stanley Ridges), one of Hanlon's rivals, attempts to steal the money but Kildare catches her and, disillusioned, returns the loot to Hanlon. But when Janet agrees to Innes' lascivious terms, Kildare thinks better of his decision and arranges for Hanlon to take care of the matter. M-G-M later starred Lew Ayres in a series of 17 "Dr. Kildare" programmers and the character resurfaced in the early 1960s in a television series featuring Richard Chamberlain. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

All I Desire
All I Desire an early exercise in Douglas Sirk Baroque, is set at the turn of the century. Long divorced from her husband Richard Carlson, itinerant actress Barbara Stanwyck returns to her home town to watch her daughter perform in a high school play. Stanwyck decides to turn over a new leaf and devote herself to the daughter she's never known. This she finds next to impossible, thanks to ugly small-town gossip attending her return. The film was obviously building up to an unhappy ending, but producer Ross Hunter intervened, tacking on an unbelievably upbeat denouement. This artistic outrage evidently didn't hurt Hunter's relationship with director Douglas Sirk, inasmuch as the two would continue to successfully collaborate in the future. All I Desire is based on a novel by Carol Brink. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

There's Always Tomorrow
There's Always Tomorrow is a remake of a 1934 film of the same name. Fred MacMurray is a toy company executive whose wife (Joan Bennett) and kids (Gigi Perreau, William Reynolds and Judy Nugent) take him for granted. Barbara Stanwyck is Fred's former girlfriend, whose own business activities result in a surprise reunion. MacMurray falls back in love with Stanwyck and prepares to leave his family. MacMurray's children go to Stanwyck and politely ask her to back off. She does so, and MacMurray's wife Bennett, who's been out of town during all this, is none the wiser. In the original There's Always Tomorrow, the male and female leads (Frank Morgan and Binnie Barnes) were farther apart age-wise, making their brief encounter all the more poignant. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Bride Wore Boots
Charmless films like The Bride Wore Boots helped to kill the postwar revival of the "screwball comedy" genre almost before it began. Here's the deal: Breeding-farm owner Sally (Barbara Stanwyck) loves horses. Novelist Jeff (Robert Cummings) hates horses, but loves Sally. Jeff and Sally marry, only to break up over their equestrian differences. They spend the rest of the film trying to get back together again, despite such hurdles as flirtatious Southern belle Mary Lou Medford (Diana Lynn) and charming "other man" Lance Gale (Patric Knowles). Is it any surprise that the film ends with a Big Race, and that horse-hating Jeff is astride the winning steed? ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Great Man's Lady
This rambling historical drama covers 109 years in the life of one woman. Encased in convincing old-age makeup, Barbara Stanwyck reminisces on her experiences in the American West. As a young woman, she is squired by gambler Brian Donlevy, but her heart belongs to dreamer Joel McCrea. She chooses McCrea, and the first years of their marriage are poor but happy. Then McCrea strikes oil, becoming one of his state's richest men. With Stanwyck at his side, McCrea climbs up the ladder of success all the way to the political arena--while Donlevy lurks in the background in hopes of reclaiming his girl. The Great Man's Lady is a surprisingly sedate vehicle for both Stanwyck and action director William A. Wellman. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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