Pre-Code Barbara Stanwyck

Pre-Code Barbara Stanwyck

12 Episodes

Brassy yet vulnerable, tough but tender, equally adept at drama, comedy, and romance: Barbara Stanwyck had an edgy, refreshingly naturalistic screen presence that made her a perfect star for the early sound era, when sex, sin, and vice were splashed across the screen with abandon, as yet unrestrained by the strictures of the Hays code. Her Brooklyn-bred authenticity and remarkable versatility made her a favorite of major directors like Frank Capra, who cast her as a charlatan preacher in THE MIRACLE WOMAN and as the sympathetic “other woman” in FORBIDDEN, and William A. Wellman, who directed her in the risqué romp NIGHT NURSE and the Edna Ferber family drama SO BIG! These films—along with jaw-droppers like BABY FACE and LADIES THEY TALK ABOUT—showcase the thoroughly modern quality that would make Stanwyck one of classic Hollywood’s most beloved and enduring screen legends.

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Pre-Code Barbara Stanwyck
  • Introducing Pre-Code Barbara Stanwyck

    Episode 1

    In this program recorded in 2019, film scholar Catherine Russell and critic Imogen Sara Smith explore the films that made Barbara Stanwyck a notorious star in Pre-Code Hollywood.

  • Ladies of Leisure

    Episode 2

    Directed by Frank Capra • 1930 • United States
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Ralph Graves, Lowell Sherman

    In the first of her remarkable collaborations with Frank Capra, Barbara Stanwyck plays a “party girl” who finds genuine love when she begins modeling for the wannabe-painter son (Ralph Grave...

  • Illicit
    Episode 3


    Episode 3

    Directed by Archie Mayo • 1931 • United States
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, James Rennie, Ricardo Cortez

    No-nonsense Anne Vincent (Barbara Stanwyck) states her position flatly: “Nearly every girl I know is either unhappily married or unhappily divorced.” When she does acquiesce to a marriage pr...

  • The Miracle Woman

    Episode 4

    Directed by Frank Capra • 1931 • United States
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, David Manners, Sam Hardy

    A subversive, still-potent indictment of religious hypocrisy, THE MIRACLE WOMAN stars Barbara Stanwyck as Florence Fallon, a disillusioned preacher’s daughter who turns her back on the church to...

  • Night Nurse

    Episode 5

    Directed by William A. Wellman • 1931 • United States
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Ben Lyon, Clark Gable

    Lora Hart (Barbara Stanwyck) is an ambitious student nurse whose first assignment after graduation is tending to a couple of ill little girls. Despite their posh surroundings, the girls are ...

  • So Big!
    Episode 6

    So Big!

    Episode 6

    Directed by William A. Wellman • 1932 • United States
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, George Brent

    Based on the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel by Edna Ferber, SO BIG! casts Barbara Stanwyck as Selina Peake, a resourceful schoolteacher turned farmer’s wife who, following the death of her...

  • Forbidden

    Episode 7

    Directed by Frank Capra • 1932 • United States
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Adolphe Menjou

    On a cruise ship en route to Havana, small town librarian Lulu Smith (Barbara Stanwyck) meets Bob Grover (Adolphe Menjou), an ambitious, married attorney with his sights set on public office. It’s the beg...

  • The Purchase Price

    Episode 8

    Directed by William A. Wellman • 1932 • United States
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Lyle Talbot

    After Joan Gordon (Barbara Stanwyck) gets fed up being the kept woman of her married boss, bootlegger Ed Fields (Lyle Talbot), she flees New York City and ends up in North Dakota as the ...

  • Baby Face

    Episode 9

    Directed by Alfred E. Green • 1933 • United States
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, John Wayne, George Brent

    She climbed the ladder of success—wrong by wrong! Barbara Stanwyck stars as Lily “Baby Face” Powers, a tough woman of unusual beauty who sleeps her way to the top of a banking empire, leavin...

  • Ladies They Talk About

    Episode 10

    Directed by Howard Bretherton and William Keighley • 1933 • United States
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Preston Foster, Lyle Talbot

    Gun moll Nan Taylor (Barbara Stanwyck) makes the mistake of falling in love with cop and part-time preacher David Slade (Preston Foster). Slade repays Taylor's affe...

  • Ever in My Heart

    Episode 11

    Directed by Archie Mayo • 1933 • United States
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Otto Kruger, Ralph Bellamy

    Feeling the sting of ignorance and xenophobia at home, Mary (Barbara Stanwyck) follows her German-born husband to a Europe fissured by war. He enlists in the German Army; she works at a soup k...

  • Gambling Lady

    Episode 12

    Directed by Archie Mayo • 1934 • United States
    Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Pat O’Brien

    Lady Lee (Barbara Stanwyck) has an uncanny sense of cards, which she has used to build a successful gambling business and a reputation for complete honesty, despite constant pressure from the mo...