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New on DVD: ‘The Barbara Stanwyck Show’

The Barbara Stanwyck Show

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From her early screen performances in Night Nurse (1931) and Baby Face (1933) to her career-topping turn as Australian business tycoon Mary Carson in ABC’s 1983 adaptation of Colleen McCullough’s epic, The Thorn Birds, Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990) sizzled. I have continued to discover and enjoy her work over the years and I’m amazed at her remarkable range, powerfully vulnerable presence, and the depth of her talent. In fact, at the end of my run at Box Ofice Mojo, I had planned to run a series of reviews and interviews to mark her centenary. For now, I’m delighted to have made a new discovery which I hope you will enjoy, too: The Barbara Stanwyck Show. The 1960-1961 television anthology series, which aired before her colorful Western series, The Big Valley,  features Miss Stanwyck in silhouetted gowns and white gloves introducing each weekly 30-minute dramatic episode. The plots depict her in various roles and different stories.

This DVD edition of the recently recovered black and white program does not present the full season (the top-rated series was inexplicably cancelled, though she won a Best Actress Emmy), nevertheless, she is magnificent. The episodes are the equivalent of short stories, with the star of Double Indemnity at her peak as escaped murderer Vic Morrow’s hostage, a philanthropist wife and mother, and, in two excellent pieces, as Jo Little, a Chinese-born trader who tries to rescue a child refugee from Communism while trying to survive the U.S. government’s restrictions on business in Hong Kong. The best episode so far is “Size 10”, a dramatic cousin to her brilliantly pro-capitalist Executive Suite with the petite actress as a high-maintenance fashion designer in a tightly plotted business mystery with the independent woman as its central theme. The 3-disc DVD is handsomely packaged with a reference booklet which includes an episode guide and thoughtful comments from Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), who recounts seeing Miss Stanwyck in costume as a nun on the Desilu lot. Though the show’s glamorous introductions may or may not work, there’s much to appreciate here on this rare television classic, including unaired bonus material in a durable, well-designed box. And, of course, the best part is seeing Barbara Stanwyck in 16 episodes on a product the manufacturer tantalizingly labels Volume I. When it comes to Stanwyck, who personally helped launch the careers of William Holden and Ayn Rand, more is more.

Robert Mayhew Interviewed

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Robert Mayhew, a philosophy professor and prolific editor and author, about Ayn Rand’s first novel, We the Living (1936). He discusses the book, its urgently relevant theme of the individual versus the state, the movie version, and his thoroughly engaging Essays on Ayn Rand’s We the Living. This is the first of three exclusive interviews about this classic work of literature planned for publication on the site. I aim to post interviews with Ayn Rand Institute archives manager Jeff Britting, who wrote an Ayn Rand biography and co-produced the Oscar-nominated 1990s documentary, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, and Duncan Scott, who co-produced the restored film adaptation of We the Living, made in Italy in 1942 and reconstructed with Ayn Rand’s cooperation.

Read the interview with Dr. Mayhew here.

Fall 2009: Peikoff, OCON and Ayn Rand

This fall, I am working on projects and studying Objectivism, and reading new biographies of its creator, Ayn Rand. My review of Yale University Press’ Fred Astaire by Joseph Epstein is available for purchase in the fall edition of a print publication. The foremost expert on Objectivism, Leonard Peikoff, will deliver a 6-part lecture course at the 2010 Objectivist Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) reports. Dr. Peikoff’s forthcoming book, The DIM Hypothesis, in which he presents a new philosophical theory, will be the basis for the course. For more information about this exciting news, read the announcement in ARI’s latest Impact, which is packed with interesting information (incidentally, my movie review of the pirated, 1942 Italian film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s We the Living is published in the electronic edition, with a brief history of the motion picture). The review is one of a series of articles for this site; others include this op-ed about the 1936 novel. I’m planning to post new, exclusive interviews about We the Living, about both the book and the movie, in the future.

Books: ‘Nothing Less Than Victory’

With diabolical new plots to attack America by Islamic terrorists and Iran continuing to threaten the West with nuclear destruction, Professor John Lewis makes the urgent case for “offensive actions in pursuit of peace” in Nothing Less Than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History, due to be published by Princeton University Press next year. Dr. Lewis, a friend and teacher whose military and ancient history courses are superb, promises on his Web site that Nothing Less Than Victoryshows that a war’s endurance rests in each side’s reasoning, moral purpose, and commitment to fight, and why an effectively aimed, well-planned, and quickly executed offense can end a conflict and create the conditions needed for long-term peace.” Dr. Lewis, whom I once interviewed for an article series about Alexander the Great, is both extremely passionate and knowledgeable, a rare and welcome combination among today’s intellectuals. His new book deserves serious attention.

New on DVD: ‘We the Living’

We the LivingAs I reported in May, a film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s 1936 novel We the Living, is available on DVD. It is also on sale through the production company.

The 1942 motion picture was recut from a pirated Italian adaptation and released in fascist Italy and Europe as two separate pictures. I’m planning an interview series about Ayn Rand’s breathtaking literary achievement and the outstanding movie version, which was theatrically released in 1988, for publication on the site.

While the film is also excellent, there is no substitute for the superior experience of reading We the Living, which was recently reprinted with an urgently relevant introduction by Leonard Peikoff, in this new trade paperback edition.