Books Aim to Lift the Curtain on Hollywood Legends

In a dual review of books on the lives of Ava Gardner and Barbara Stanwyck, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger notes how the two stars, who each came from modest backgrounds, worked with the film industry  differently. Gardner was immediately absorbed into the star-making machinery of the studio system; Stanwyck arrived in Hollywood with an independent contract and made her own deals.

“Both were at the top during the golden age of the Hollywood studio system, but one difference between them is fundamental: Ava Gardner was a product of the “star machine” and Barbara Stanwyck was not “writes Basinger in The New York Review of Books.

Yet the two, thrown together in movies and personally  connected through Gardner’s affair with Stanwyck’s second husband, both “knew Hollywood for what it was,” Basinger writes. Neither trusted the vagaries of fame or the powerful studios; Gardner even kept the cheap coat she had arrived in California with, as a reminder of the impermanence of fame and wealth.

The two books are: Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations, by Peter Evans and Ava Gardner, and A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson.