Barbara Stanwyck’s Last Great Film Role

As the commanding presence at the center of Samuel Fuller’s wild feminist western Forty Guns, the great Barbara Stanwyck taps into the tough, no-nonsense bearing she’d honed on-screen since the late twenties, playing the part of a corrupt rancher who has the whole of Tombstone, Arizona, under her thumb. The fifty-year-old Stanwyck’s career was on a downswing at the time she was hired by Fuller, who had recently returned to producing his films independently after making several features for Fox. But as Forty Guns proves, that’s certainly not because she was missing a beat. In the above clip, taken from a supplement on our new edition of Forty Guns, critic Imogen Sara Smith elaborates on what makes the imperious landowner Jessica Drummond the actor’s “last great film role.” Watch Smith discuss how Fuller’s film provides a sort of summation of the fierceness, resolve, and complex vulnerability that had defined the Double Indemnity and The Lady Eve star’s screen persona to date. The critic also zeroes in on some of the bold CinemaScope flourishes, including the sweeping vistas of Stanwyck’s hard-galloping entrance, that helped Fuller position his lead as the iron-fisted queen of her domain.

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