As we keep celebrating Barbara Stanwyck as the Star Of The Month, we’ve got another one of her films where she was paired with Joel McCrea, The Great Man’s Lady from 1942!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Pinto Pink (1967)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)
(Length: 6 minutes, 5 seconds)
The Pink Panther is trying to hitchhike across the country, when he spots a horse and decides to try riding him. This is a rather funny one, with the main source of humor being the Panther’s failed attempts to get on the horse. Of course, the horse is stubborn and foils the Panther’s attempts, frequently giving him the horse laugh. I enjoyed this one from start to finish, and it’s one I don’t mind coming back to every now and then for a good laugh (or several)!
And Now For The Main Feature…
The commemoration of a statue to Ethan Hoyt, the founder of Hoyt City, sends a flock of reporters to the home of Hannah Sempler, an old woman who claims to be connected to Ethan. However, she turns everybody away. Everybody, that is, except a young lady (Katharine Stevens) looking to write a biography about Ethan. So, Hannah decides to tell her life story. She turns the clock back to 1848, when Hannah (Barbara Stanwyck) met Ethan (Joel McCrea). At that time, she was a young lady engaged to another man (mostly at her father’s insistence). Ethan was trying to convince her father to invest in his idea to build a city dedicated to his father out west. Her father turns him down, but Hannah is thrilled by Ethan and his enthusiasm, so she decides to run away with him and get married. Everything is rough for them out west, but she takes to being a homesteader as best as she can. When attempts to raise money for Ethan’s dream of Hoyt City fail, they decide to pack up and go to Sacramento, California. However, in trying to raise money for the trip, Ethan loses it all to gambler Steely Edwards (Brian Donlevy). When she sees men taking everything away, Hannah goes to Steely privately to win it all back. He is instantly infatuated with her, and, although she wins everything back, he accompanies them out to Sacramento. There, Hannah runs a boarding house, while Ethan works at a mine in Virginia City, trying to find some gold. One night, Ethan comes back, feeling quite discouraged. However, as Hannah quickly realizes, his boots are covered in silver, so she borrows some money from Steely so that Ethan can afford to go back and mine it. Ethan wants her to come with him, but she refuses. He doesn’t know it yet, but she is pregnant, a fact she is keeping a secret at the moment so that he can achieve his dream of Hoyt City without worrying about her or the baby. Ethan, of course, is suspicious that she just wants to stay with Steely, and, since she won’t reveal her real reason, he promises not to come back to her. Later on (after she has given birth to twins), a torrential flood threatens Sacramento, and all the citizens attempt to evacuate. Steely helps get her and the twins on a stagecoach bound for Virginia City, but along the way, a flash flood washes it off a bridge. Steely later finds the now-dead twins and buries them. Since he didn’t find Hannah, he assumes she died as well, and goes to Virginia City to tell Ethan. Upon learning the news, Ethan shoots Steely, blaming him for his wife’s death. Steely survives being shot (although Ethan doesn’t know this), and eventually returns to Sacramento. There, he finds Hannah in her old boarding house, and tells her that Ethan has remarried. She decides to let Ethan believe her to be dead, and goes with Steely to San Francisco. Will Hannah and Ethan ever be reunited? (I’d also ask if Ethan will ever achieve his dreams, but the film’s opening kind of gives that away, so we’ll let that one go.)
The old saying goes “Behind every great man is a great woman,” and, in this movie, that role is definitely being filled by Barbara Stanwyck’s character! In what was the fifth of six collaborations with Joel McCrea, she portrays a woman who falls in love, and continually pushes her significant other to do better and be a better person. Of course, Barbara also shows us the human side of that equation, as we see her struggle with the results of that push, whether it be when she pushes him to go back to the mine (even though she is pregnant), or when she has to stay away, especially after losing her children. I do admit, the early part of the film, when she portrays a teenager, is pushing it a little, but that’s only because she doesn’t look that young (as I’d certainly say that her performance even then is still good). Of course, she also portrays the much older Hannah as well, and, for that, Barbara supposedly studied residents of nursing homes. It worked, as I certainly found her convincing!
The film’s story came from Viña Delmar’s short story “The Human Side,” which had been published in Hearst’s International-Cosmopolitan in 1939. I personally found this movie to be quite riveting, from start to finish! Barbara Stanwyck was certainly the film’s big appeal for me, but I think the rest of the cast worked quite well for me, too! Joel McCrea’s performance as Ethan Hoyt was interesting, since we saw him with his big ideas and dreams for the future. When on his own, he sometimes struggled with his dreams, and was sometimes willing to cut corners, but Stanwyck’s Hannah was there to push him not to take the easy way, and to help nudge him in the right direction. Brian Donlevy’s Steely Edwards was also worth watching, as a gambler (and con) who takes all Ethan’s money, only to meet Hannah, and fall in love with her. Yet, in spite of the presence of the love triangle, he realizes she loves Ethan, and tries to take care of her without trying to take Ethan’s place. This was a very heartwarming (and, to a degree, sad) story, and it’s one I look forward to revisiting in the future! (So, yes, I would recommend it!)
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Great Man’s Lady (1942)
This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the three film Barbara Stanwyck Collection from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This film’s HD scan looks pretty good. There is some dust and dirt here and there, but it’s very minor, and easily forgotten. It’s no full-blown restoration, but I’ll take it, as it’s the best this almost forgotten film is likely to appear for some time. So, I would definitely recommend it!
Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes
My Rating: 9/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
The Great McGinty (1940) – Brian Donlevy
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