A change of pace this week with a long-overdue update to the Fur Stars gallery, focusing on the third leg of the 30’s triumvirate of most-famous fur wearers: Barbara Stanwyck. One could easily focus on Dietrich, Garbo, and Stanwyck alone and cover some of the decade’s most fur rich films.
Instead of rehashing the ground covered so far in Stanwyck’s more well-known films, I put together a set that focuses on her “minor” roles, at least in terms of how much fur appears in the films in question. Most of these hail from the early ’30s, where Hollywood hadn’t quite reached the pinnacle of extravagance in fur fashion that would lead to films like Stanwyck’s own The Mad Miss Manton, but the seeds were quite clearly on display.
Ladies of Leisure – 1930
We start with one more notable for a co-star’s fur than her own. In the 1930 film Ladies of Leisure, Barbara stars as Kay Arnold, a “lady of leisure” who ends up in a romance with an earnest young painter who has issues finding legitimate figure models for his work.
Here Barbara wears a very short hair fur while Marie Prevost’s oversized white fox trim outshines it entirely.
In fact, we’ll divert from course long enough to present Marie’s white fox trim in full.
Back on point, we find Barbara contemplating her relationship issues in… well, I’m honestly not sure what this is, and it may not even be fur, but here it is, debate amongst yourselves.
Illicit – 1931
A film in which Barbara plays a woman who doesn’t believe in marriage and is “living in sin” with her boyfriend until social pressure forces them to marry. It’s 1931; go with it… Oddly the IMDb’s cover for the film shows Miss Stanwyck wearing a rather nice white fox trimmed cape, but unless I blacked out while watching, she never actually wears it in the movie.
The closest we get is another actress in this white fox-trimmed ermine cloak, opposite Miss Stanwyck, who again is upstaged by someone else’s fur.
She does wear better fur in this film, this chinchilla-trimmed ermine cape. I say ‘better’ in a very relative sense, of course. All chinchilla would have been a far better choice. Fortunately, the early 30’s flirtation with ermine didn’t last very long.
Ten Cents A Dance – 1931
Playing yet another woman with some negotiable if not necessarily easy virtue, Barbara Stanwyck stars as Barbara O’Neill, a dance hall girl who romances the wealthy patrons while really in love with a far more sympathetic character.
If movies can teach young women anything, it’s that you don’t romance the rich without getting some furs out of it, at least if you’re living in the 1930s. (Disclaimer: You may want to adjust those expectations should you not be living in the 1930s.) Here the fur is a black fox trimmed affair, not particularly compelling but somewhat agreeable.
Night Nurse – 1931
Paying attention? They cranked ’em out fast back then. In our final 1931 entry, Barbara stars as Lora Hart, a… night nurse. It must have been simpler then; you could just give something the most obvious name possible and go with it. Here Stanwyck is opposite a pre-fame Clark Gable trying to prevent a couple kids from being starved to death.
As the quality will suggest, this is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fur and a very old cap. But the private night nurse gig apparently pays well enough for a decent fox collar on her coat.
Forbidden – 1932
Miss Stanwyck plays a slightly more respectable librarian named Lulu here, which would make her “Lulu the Librarian.” Lulu, the Librarian, falls in love with Bob, the District Attorney Who Is Already Married, and thus we arrive at the film’s title.
Lulu meets Bob on a cruise to Havana, where she’s spent her last dime glamming up a bit; this includes an enormous, full fox-collared coat. Lulu’s fashion sense is unquestionable.
Sadly it’s the only fur fashion in the film, but it is lavishly photographed, and we are provided with numerous close-ups of Miss Stanwyck’s face framed by the thick white fox fur.
Shopworn – 1932
The second 1932 film, Shopworn, is an entirely different film from Forbidden, but it seems the wardrobe department didn’t get the memo and simply gave her the same white fox collared coat as she wore in Forbidden.
Not that I mind, it’s a lovely white fox collar, though its appearance is relatively brief and not well filmed at all in this film.
Ladies They Talk About – 1935
This is one that almost made it to individual induction status. It’s got 2 long sequences with fox furs and one little bit in the middle. Stanwyck is in classic bad girl form as Nan Taylor, who starts in a gang of bank robbers. She ends up going to prison, thanks to a Pastor Foster who remembers her from their childhood and is trying to help her. Once she is released, she sets about getting revenge on the pastor.
Nan robs banks in style, wearing this thick red fox-trimmed dress.
Wondering how all that stuff about the studio’s enforcing a “look” on their stars squares with a platinum blonde Barbara Stanwyck in 1935? It’s a wig, that’s how.
Nan exits prison in style, already wrapped up in a fox stole.
Nan sets out to even the score with the pastor in this rather pedestrian silver fox stole, one in the style that I’ve always disliked. It’s filmed well enough, though, and we get some excellent close-ups of Stanwyck wearing expressions that would melt glaciers.
This is how you express “I am going to violently murder you” without a single word:
Golden Boy – 1939
Not every late 30’s film was as leaden with epic fox coats as I would like. Here we find Barbara playing Lorna Moon, kind-of-a-hooker with a heart-of-gold to young boxer Joe Bonaparte, played by William Holden in his first significant film role.
Boxing films always seem to work in some shot of a woman in furs, not sure why that is, but it happens a lot. They don’t work in many furs, though, and this is the perfect example, where Lorna ends up in a fox fur-collared coat towards the end. At this point, she’s discovered her heart-of-gold-ness.
Extra shot because it’s a nice collar, and there are good close-ups that make good use of Barbara’s face framed by it.
Titanic – 1953
There’s a ship; it hits an iceberg, it sinks. Questions?
Barbara Stanwyck is on board the ship, embroiled in Family Drama (with a capital ‘F’ and ‘D’). She plays Julia Sturges, a woman at odds with her husband over many things, mainly their son’s course in life. While this issue will eventually be rendered moot via iceberg, she wears this white fox-trimmed coat for quite a bit while arguing about it.
The white fox collar and cuffs are oddly out of place in the 1950s and, I’d guess, in 1912 when the event actually happened. Another one of those happy continuity errors that I love.
And the Rest…
Obviously, these films do not represent Miss Stanwyck’s finest fur fashions on film. For those, check out the individual inductions of the following:
Eventually, TCM will show Breakfast for Two again, and that one will receive the attention it so richly deserves.