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Barbara Stanwyck Collection [Internes Can't Take Money / The Great Man's Lady / The Bride Wore Boots]
Internes Can't Take Money: This 1937 melodrama/thriller is actually more of a Joel McCrea vehicle than a Barbara Stanwyck one. This is the first film in a franchise that follows the adventures of Dr. Kildare (McCrea), a headstrong and compassionate man who helps unfortunates in need. Here, Kildare puts his life in line as he assists a repentant woman with a sordid past (Stanwyck) locate her long lost child. The woman's husband was a bank robber, and after one of his jobs went south, a bunch of ‘30s gangster tropes kidnapped her infant and placed her in an orphanage. Only a handful of the mobsters know the location of the child, and they'll exploit the woman any way they please before they give out that information. That's where Dr. Kildare comes in to save the day. This is essentially a slow moving melodrama with a bunch of superfluous sub-plots. Stanwyck delivers an emotionally impactful performance with the limited screen time she's given. 2/5
The Great Man's Lady: Director William Wellman (The O.G. A Star is Born) manages to squeeze in quite an epic life story in this wistful melodrama about Hannah (Stanwyck), a dreamer and romantic who comes to prominence during the gold rush, and becomes embroiled between the love of two men; the ambitious Ethan (Joel McCrea), and the smarmy Steely (Brian Donlevy). The narrative's framing device follows a group of journalists in then-present 1942 trying to locate Hannah and ask her about her supposed marriage to Ethan, who apparently founded the very city they're living in. Stanwyck gets lost in the role as the 100-year-old Hannah, telling her story to a young journalist (K.T. Stevens). Wellman creates a solid and focused pace to make sure that each section of Hannah's tumultuous life isn't rushed or languid. Stanwyck's tour-de-force performance creates a strong-willed and independent-minded woman, at least within the confines of the late 19th century frontier life. 4/5
The Bride Wore Boots: A perfect vehicle for Stanwyck's talents as a physical comedian, this screwball comedy is about a well-to-do southern wife (Stanwyck) who wants to race horses. The only problem is that her Civil War historian husband (Robert Cummings) hates the darn animals. This conflict between the couple intensifies to the point of divorce, as the husband begins to consider infidelity after such "disobedient" behavior from his wife. The gender politics of the film are of course archaic, common in even the most well received screwball comedies at the time, but Stanwyck's cocksure attitude and headstrong performance tips the charisma and power to her character's side. 3/5
The 1080p transfers by Kino Lorber are almost always clean and crisp, with a healthy amount of grain to capture the feel of the period. Internes Can't Take Money has the softest definition, and suffers from the most scratches and blemishes, but there aren't a lot of them to even come close to ruining the experience.
I wish the 2.0 mono tracks were encoded in 1.0, which would have given the audio more focus and range. Other than that, the audio is as clear as it can be for the time period. These films are very dialogue heavy, so the tracks get that basic job done. The Bride Wore boots has some exciting horse racing sequences, pretty much the only time in this set where we get some dynamic sound effects.
Commentaries by Dr. Eloise Ross: These commentaries are found in The Great Man's Lady and Internes Can't Take Money. The esteemed film historian uses the productions of these films as a jumping off point to explore Stanwyck's career and her versatile talents. A must for Stanwyck fans.
We also get Trailers for each film.
One might expect more of a darker, film noir collection from a Barbara Stanwyck set. But Kino's selection showcases Stanwyck's versatility and inherent charm. It's not a definitive collection by any means, but is a nice addition for those looking to expand their Stanwyck library.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com