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Barbara Stanwyck's Supporting Roles: 3 Times the Star Shined Without Being the Lead Actress

By    |   Thursday, 14 May 2015 08:14 AM

Barbara Stanwyck didn’t start out as a leading lady, and toward the end of her career, she turned to smaller parts in TV series to produce more memorable roles. Yet, Stanwyck dominated Hollywood in the 1930s and '40s, and was the highest-paid woman in the U.S. in 1944 with a reported earning of $400,000 according to The New York Times.

Here are three times Stanwyck turned in memorable performances in supporting roles:

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1. Fan dancer, “Broadway Nights” (1927)

Although this film was a silent picture and not one Stanwyck wished to talk about afterward, it did mark her first appearance on the silver screen. She was also given a dose of reality when she lost the lead role because she couldn’t cry on command according to Axel Madsen’s “Stanwyck: A Biography.”

Instead, the role went to Lois Wilson and Stanwyck was given a smaller role in the production.

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2. Mary Caron, “The Thorn Birds” (1983)

Stanwyck’s role in this TV series earned her a Golden Globe for her performance as Mary Carson. John O’Connor, writing for The New York Times, describes her as “a bit wobbly in some scenes, but when it comes to the big moments, she demonstrates the kind of disarming toughness that made her a major movie star.” The show was based on the best-selling novel by Colleen McCullough.

3. Julia O. Tredway, “Executive Suite” (1954)

This film earned Stanwyck and her huge list of cast mates a wine at the Venice Film Festival as the Special Jury Prize for ensemble acting. Stanwyck’s role was that of stockholder and although it was brief, she made an impact.

Critic Jill Blake said on Moviola, “By 1954, (William) Holden had achieved enough clout in Hollywood to receive top-billing in the impressive ensemble drama “Executive Suite' ... that’s one hell of a cast.”

The film also reunited Stanwyck with Holden, who was a close friend and who she mentioned in her acceptance speech when she was awarded an honorary Oscar.

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Barbara Stanwyck didn't start out as a leading lady, and toward the end of her career, she turned to smaller parts in TV series to produce more memorable roles. Yet, Stanwyck dominated Hollywood in the 1930s and '40s, and was the highest-paid woman in the U.S. in 1944.
barbara stanwyck, roles, star, movies, actress
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Thursday, 14 May 2015 08:14 AM
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