Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Women of Western Television

We all have our heroes from western television; Matt Dillon, Joe Cartwright, and Seth Bullock to name a few. Aiding these swoon-worthy men are heroines who are often over-looked or forgotten after the series has ended. Here are a few I have admired for their spot-on portrayal of women living in the wild west.         

Barbara Stanwyck: Born Ruby Stevens on July 16, 1907 in Brooklyn. Stanwyck is best known for portraying Victoria Barkley on The Big Valley. Barbara played the matriarch of the Barkley family; a strong-willed, compassionate mother who loved her children and ranch dearly. Before taking on the role of Victoria Barkley, Stanwyck appeared in over 80 movies, most notably Stella Dallas and Double Indemnity.  
Stanwyck did not have an easy childhood. At the age of 4, her mother was killed when pushed off of a moving streetcar. Her father couldn’t cope with the loss and left much of her upbringing to her older sister, who was a showgirl. Stanwyck began smoking at 9 years of age, quit school early and made her way into showbiz.  Shortly after changing her name to Barbara Stanwyck, she made her Broadway debut in 1926 playing a chorus girl in The Noose. By 1930, she was married, had bid farewell to Broadway and moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in the movies. Her first 2 films flopped, nearly ruining her career before it really began, but she convinced Frank Capra to give her a role in his production, Ladies of Leisure. The movie gained her the recognition she desired and helped launch her career.
Along with actresses such as Bette Davis, Stanwyck played a hand in redefining the typical roles women played in films. Instead of females in distress or the typical housewife, Stanwyck portrayed women with their own motives and ideals. She never won an Oscar for her work in film, including for her role as seductress and murderess Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity, but she did receive an honorary Oscar in 1982.
As she aged, Stanwyck steered away from film toward television. She appeared on The Jack Benny Program and hosted her own show, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, before taking the role as Victoria Barkley. Stanwyck also appeared on The Thorn Birds for which she won a Golden Globe and an Emmy. Unlike many of the characters she played, she was a social recluse, though she did form a lasting bond with Linda Evans (also from The Big Valley) after Evans’ mother passed away. Stanwyck was married and divorced twice, and passed away in 1990 from congestive heart failure.  
I’ve had the pleasure of watching Ms. Stanwyck in some of her films, but to me she will forever be Victoria Barkley from one of my favorite childhood television shows.

Linda Cristal: Born Marta Victoria Moya Burges on February 2, 19 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Linda Cristal is best known in the United States for her role as Victoria Buchanan on The High Chaparral, for which she won a Golden Globe award. Victoria was patriarch John Buchanan’s wife. Somewhat strong-willed, she loved her husband and strived for some common ground with her grown stepson.
Cristal was born to a French father and an Italian mother. She lost her parents in 1947 in a road accident. Before coming to the United States, she was a movie star in Mexico and Italy. One of her first roles in the United States was in the movie Comanche. Afterward, she met up with John Wayne, who asked her to asked her to take on the role of Flaca in his movie, The Alamo. Afterward, she went on to co-star with Jimmy Stewart in Two Rode Together.
Cristal appeared in other westerns before briefly retiring in the mid 1960’s to raise her 2 young sons. She was coaxed out of retirement to play Victoria on the High Chaparral in 1967. After the show ended, she appeared in the movie Mr. Majestyk opposite Charles Bronsan before starring in the Argentine television series, Rossé..  At the time of writing this blog, Ms. Cristal is retired and residing in California.  
The High Chaparral was a favorite childhood show. I especially liked the character of Uncle Buck since he was funny and always made me laugh. I will forever remember Cristal as the beautiful Victoria with the pretty clothes who supported her family and fought for peace alongside her husband.     

Paula Malcolmson: Born June 1, 1970 in Belfast, North Ireland, Malcolmson played soiled dove, Trixie, on Deadwood. Before landing the role, she appeared in several television shows and movie, including Tombstone as Allie Earp.
   Malcolmson began her acting career in theater. Her 1st movie role was in 1992’s Another Girl Another Planet. From there was cast in Tombstone and Dunston Checks In. She has appeared on television in The Practice and Ray Donavan, but her most notable role is still Trixie from Deadwood.     
Malcolmson is sometimes known and credited as Paula Williams. She is extremely secretive about her personal life, so much so no one knows for certain if she is married. Rumors have swirled regarding a husband, but since nothing could be proven, her bio lists her as single. Currently, she lives in Los Angeles and will co-star in the revival net year.
I was a huge fan of Deadwood, and Malcolmson in particular. She brought to light the hardships of Trixie’s life as a soiled dove, (and saloon owner Al Swearengen’s girlfriend) but she also gave Trixie strength and heart and soul. Living with a dangerous man, in a dangerous town, she was a strong woman who carefully navigated a path between right and wrong and always championed lawman Sol. Of all the characters who have come and gone through the years, Malcolmson’s Trixie is one of the ones I miss the most.         


Renaissance Women said...

All amazing actors, and their roles memorable. Thanks for showcasing them. Doris

Julie Lence said...

Glad you enjoyed, Doris. Hugs!

crazychris said...

I absolutely love Miss Barbara Stanwyk. One of the best toughest woman out there. She is missed greatly.