I recently saw Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyk; the film is directed by Peter Godfrey, a British director. One thing obviously unmistakable is Stanwyk’s talent–several reasons I was hesitant in viewing her films, at least some of them. They don’t justify her talent; and early directors and writers didn’t seem to articulate her best, their organization in directing, or the level of writing necessary for her character–and other supporting characters. Too fast of a film, with sloppy edits, non-comedic in spots, I think the film tried hard, perhaps, preserving comedy and family dynamic. I saw Stanwyk in The Thornbirds, which is an excellent film; she was terrific in it, not in the sense of an actor/actress gracefully aging–as we all do, it’s the fact recognizable that better direction and better writing fit her talent, as it would most actors. I avoided her films because of poor direction and poor writing, embarrassing the lack of integrity surrounding her talent with good directing and good writing, which is what it takes, this all-encompassing support for a film.
Christmas in Connecticut is about a holiday season, provided in fun and play; but it doesn’t fit Stanwyk’s talent. I think had she, and this is just me, had been able to, perhaps, at that time–and I haven’t studied film prior to the 1950s–been able to have screenplays provided her, and maybe she did, dealing with politics, stronger female characters, and not just for means of employment, which she made quit a few films, the talent of the performance would have been more an indelible mark, which should have garnered her more respect in the film industry. It’s not Stanwyk; it’s the non-provided scripts and direction that support the film industry.
The writing–screenwriting–is just as important as directing. And the script just didn’t do justice to her talent. I think it’s fair not to blame the time period, 1945, because there were several credible writers during that period whose work was not adapted into film. I’m not saying that professional writers are the first pick of the lot. It’s about good writing that helps prevail a film with very good directing and just as good acting. There are a lot of aspiring filmmakers who are good writers who don’t have to be English majors. Stanwyk, as we know, was also a viably vibrant dynamic character in The Big Valley; and we know this as an audience. But the film work should have spoke volumes, deserving better, more personally satisfying parts. There’s a suffering seen on screen due to lack of better directing and writing. Less hospitable film editing (e.g., the baby scene with the soap where the soap stays too long in the baby’s mouth, having characters run a muck with untangible dialogue) etc. laps matching characters to where they are just speaking lines with mis-direction, which is painful to watch. Film is also about respecting talent, being able to work with a cast, and that a cast gets along. It’s also about securing good writing and directing along with good acting. Stanwyk was ahead of her time born during the turn of the twentieth century. I don’t think the film industry, perhaps, knew how to keep up with her and her talent unless the parts just weren’t provided. A viewer can just tell there is a frustration and a suffering that’s hidden as she employs some of the lines. This viewer noticed.