Clips from Barbara Stanwyck’s memorable performances reminded Wednesday night’s full house audience at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater of her tremendous versatility. But what about the lady Barbara?
A clip which would have unveiled it — her acceptance speech when receiving her honorary Oscar on March 19, 1982. I was covering the Oscars for my 35th time and had seen many emotional moments — this was one. She said, “I wish to share this moment with the memory of the late William Holden. A few years ago, I stood on this stage with William Holden. I was a presenter. I loved him and I miss him very much. He always said he knew I would get an Oscar so — golden boy, tonight you got your wish.”
They’d worked together on “Golden Boy” in 1938 and at the 1978 Oscars he confessed about their film. “It wasn’t going well and I was going to be replaced — but due to this lovely human being and her interest and understanding and her professional integrity and enouragement and, above all, her generosity, I’m here tonight.” Stanwyck was in tears. Whie she never received an Oscar — until the Honorary one, Holden went on to win in 1954 for “Stalag 17” — as well as nominations for “Sunset Boulevard” and “Network.”
More about the lady Barbara will be revealed as Knopf editor Victoria Wilson completes a 10-year project — the detailed biography of Barbara Stanwyck. She obtained letters from a 15 year-correspondence between the star and Detroit columnist Shirley Eder. They exchanged as many as three letters a week plus phone conversations — including some along with Joan Crawford. She’ll also write about the longtime friendship between Stanwyck and Nancy Sinatra Sr. and Jr. Their relationship began after the respective divorces of Stanwyck, from Robert Taylor and Sinatra, Sr., from Frank.
Nancy explained the friendship to me — “She wanted to be around family–” and there were three Sinatra children growing up. The women, however, never discussed politics, Stanwyck was a staunch Republican (husband Taylor testified before the HUAC, House UnAmerican Activities Committee), the Sinatra women are staunch Democrats.
I also recently spoke (by phone) with longtime Hawaii resident Richard Chamberlain who starred in “The Thorn Birds” miniseries with Stanwyck. He revealed to me Stanwyck’s admission of the only time she ever flubbed her lines. The “Thorn Birds” scene: Chamberlain had come in from a rainstorm and was taking off his wet clothes — she was looking on. She apologized for missing her lines: “It’s been a long time since I’ve been with a naked man.” Farley Granger tells of another time — in his (and Robert Calhoun’s) book, “Include Me Out.”
Barbara Stanwyck died Jan.20, 1990. The Irish kid from Brooklyn asked that her ashes be strewn at Lone Pine — where she rode in several of her westerns.