Barbara Stanwyck needed only a look to inform you of her less than noble intentions. With a raised eyebrow, a lowered eyelid or a bit lower lip, Stanwyck filled the screen with the promise of sex, a promise even the Hays Office couldn’t censor. The come-hither look was perfected by Stanwyck, and when I saw her onscreen, I knew the men she cast that gaze upon would toss better judgment and common sense to the wind to accept its invitation.
Men fantasized about Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne and Rita Hayworth, and while they were beautiful, they were the masculine idea of distant sexiness; a beauty that, even in their wildest dreams, was just out of reach of their horny, desperate grasp. Barbara Stanwyck was the opposite, a feminist idea of earthly hotness. She was sexy because she was attainable; not only was she within reach of your grasp, she’d grab you herself, slam you down on the bed and screw you unconscious. And then she would take your wallet.
Stanwyck played roles where you had to believe that no man, even the most devout, upstanding citizen, could resist doing her bidding. She had to be smart enough to get you to surrender body and soul. Once you slept with Monroe, you could carve that notch into your bedpost and move on; Stanwyck was a mindfuck that stayed with you long after the post-coital cigarette.
I could say that today’s “5 for the Day” is a celebration of the versatility of Ms. Stanwyck, but that would be a lie. It was merely an excuse to spend time in the glow of her gaze, imagining what would happen if I could jump into the screen and answer it.