Barbara Stanwyck — She has Hollywood’s Number (1931) 🇺🇸

Barbara Stanwyck |

November 26, 2021

Success hasn’t softened the hard knocks that were Barbara Stanwyck’s welcome to Hollywood.

by Katherine Albert

Barbara Stanwyck is a bitter woman and a very wise one, not a temperamental one, as Hollywood would have you believe. A case hardened trouper, as well as a sensitive, capable actress, she isn’t fooled by the homage she finds awaiting her at the very height of her success. Having broken box-office records with “Illicit,” and been hailed as a great discovery in “Ladies of Leisure,” she hasn’t forgotten the time when she was just “that girl Frank Fay married.”

Now that she is a success, she remembers vividly those other days and Hollywood’s friendly palm can’t conceal the back of the hand she once felt. Battling her way through Broadway’s hard school, rising from a homeless Brooklyn orphan to a star in the talkies, she has Hollywood’s number. And once having been a telephone operator, she knows her numbers. Hollywood’s, she’ll tell you, is the wrong one.

Her story is more dramatic than “Cinderella.” For being a good little actress in the New York production of Burlesque, Barbara was given the usual reward of merit, a movie contract. She and Frank Fay presented themselves to the moguls of the United Artists Studio. They looked at Barbara to find a not too beautiful woman whose face was, according to their standards, marred by crooked teeth.

“You must have those fixed,” they said. “Actresses must be perfect. The job is easily done. That one crooked tooth can be removed and a false one put in “

Barbara answered simply, “Not if you give me the whole studio, I won’t.”

The teeth remained as they were.

They gave her a part in “The Locked Door.” It was an old-fashioned story with such dialogue as “If there is a God in heaven. He’ll protect me.” Barbara felt a trifle silly about saying these lines and said so. She felt sillier when she heard herself on the screen. Barbara Stanwyck was a flop. Her contract was not renewed. Well, well, the little lady of Burlesque was just a big farce.

But her husband — ah, he was a success. Frank Fay, having left United, proceeded to grab off a big fat contract at Warners.

“Under a Texas Moon,” everybody said, would prove a sensation. Picture Frank and Barbara at a Hollywood party. Frank, important, successful, sought after, surrounded by women, slapped on the back by men, invited to all the best places.

And Barbara? “Oh yes, that Stanwyck girl — hasn’t done so well.” Barbara merited only a perfunctory “hello.”

If it had not been for Frank, his wife would not have stayed on. One night a producer called her from New York. He had a perfectly swell show for her to do and wanted her to come last immediately. But Frank couldn’t go, so she declined. “You see,” she said much later, “I sort of love that man and if I went to New York all I’d have would be a good play. If I stayed I’d have Frank.”

A few more pictures. Failure again, and by this time “Under a Texas Moon” and “Show of Shows” had been released. Frank Fay had made the grade. Barbara Stanwyck had not.

A test at First National brought a shake of the head from a producer. At Columbia Frank Capra said, “I’d like to use you in ‘Ladies of Leisure’ but, of course, you’ll have to make a test.”

I can’t,” said Barbara. I simply can’t go through any more of this silly business. No more tests, if I never work in pictures again.”

But at last when Capra could not find another girl for the part, he said, “Come on into the cast and try this thing without a test.”

And thus, by a stroke of sheer luck, you were introduced to a new and brilliant “discovery,” a discovery who had been lying around loose in Hollywood for months, languishing on the sands at Malibu, being merely tolerated by Hollywood’s socially elite — “that girl Frank Fay married.” Now, of course, Frank Fay has become “Barbara Stanwyck’s husband.” It takes such a little time for these great changes to occur.

“Ten Cents a Dance” followed “Illicit” and it was during the making of that film that Barbara fell from a parallel and hurt herself badly.

have been in a plaster cast for five days. Instead she went back to work in twenty-four hours, wearing an especially built steel corset. Because of this bit of trouper courage, one leg will always be an inch shorter than the other.

Now Barbara is a success. “This, my dear, is Barbara Stanwyck. Have you seen her lovely picture ‘Illicit’?”

Not long ago it was rumored that Frank’s option would not be renewed. In this event Barbara was prepared to refuse her flattering offer from First National — whose coders she had helped to fill — and return to New York with him. But Frank has a new contract now, so Barbara is sticking around for awhile. But this sequence of circumstances has done some pretty definite things to the woman’s character.

She’s got Hollywood’s number. She knows you’re loved for your success and your success alone. She puts no faith in fleeting fame. Her picture work gives her no thrill at all. Her name in electric lights? — well, what of it! — She had that thrill when she first played on Broadway. It won’t come again, at least not in Hollywood. She doesn’t like Hollywood nor the Hollywood attitude. She realizes she has only a lit lie moment of glory on that diver sheet. She’s in the game for (he money and, of course, she’s glad when she does a good picture. Hut there arc other things so much more important to her than pictures and she feels sorry for those poor women who are in the octopus-like grip of the studios. Fame and work are not her gods. For she has Frank Fay and when they’ve both made enough money they can go to Europe to live as they please and have a couple of children. Occasionally, if Barbara feels like it, she could do a play in London and bring it into New York. She could afford to take a small salary if the play were good.

In this way her life would be rich and full and she doesn’t care if she never sees Hollywood again.

Source: Photoplay MagazineJune 1931