Barbara Stanwyck’s Grey Hair


  • Silvia Vacirca Sapienza Università di Roma



Hollywood Stardom, Gender and Ageing, Emotional Acting, Models of Womanhood, Glamourizing Ageing


Unlike many Hollywood stars of her generation, Barbara Stanwyck extended and diversified her film career during the 1950s by starring in numerous B-series westerns, where her dominant image of independent, tough woman, questioned the limits of gender and genre. Postwar Hollywood production system has changed and veteran film stars were less in demand. This paper aims to investigate the role of Barbara Stanwick as "mature women’s role model". If it is true that her maturity, emphasized by premature gray hair and the refusal to dye them, influenced her roles and transformed her into a model for mature women, aging certainly not helped fostering her film career. As the scholar Susan Hayward states, "aging is too real - not the “real we want to see" (1996, p. 340). Moreover, Stanwyck’s fascination with the western genre is consistent with his image as a mature woman with Republican tendencies. In 1973, she was the first woman to be included in the "Hall of Fame of Great Western Performers" at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.


“Femme Star Costs up 100%,” Variety, March 8, 1944, 1, 55.

AFI (American Film Institute), Barbara Stanwyck: AFI Life Achievement Award. Los Angeles: AFI, 1987.

Ager, Cecilia. “Going Places.” Variety, February 23, 1933, 43.

Bacher, Lutz. Max Ophuls in the Hollywood Studios. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1996.

Balio, Tino. Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Enterprise, 1930–1939. New York: Macmillan, 1993.

Balio, Tino. “Columbia Pictures: The Making of a Motion Picture Major, 1930–1943.” In Post–Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies, edited by David Bordwell and Noël Carroll, 419–433. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1996.

Bodnar, John. Blue–Collar Hollywood: Liberalism, Democracy, and Working People in American Film. Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 2003.

Breen, Max. “Real–Life Girl.” Picturegoer, February 2, 1937, 13.

Cameron, Ian, Pye, Douglas. The Movie Book of the Western. London: Studio Vista, 1996.

Capra, Frank. Frank Capra: The Name Above the Title. An Autobiography. London: Macmillan, 1971.

Capra, Frank. “I Break All Rules.” Film Pictorial, October 16, 1937, 15.

Capra, Frank. The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography. New York: Da Capo, 1997.

Carman, Emily Susan. “Independent Stardom: Female Film Stars and the Studio System in the 1930s.” Women’s Studies, Vol. 37 (2008): 583–615.

Collier, Lionel. “On the Screens Now.” Picturegoer, October 29, 1932, 19–20.

Dyer, Richard. Stars. London: BFI Publishing, 1998.

Eckert, Charles. “The Carole Lombard in Macy’s Window.” In Stardom: Industry of Desire, edited by Christine Gledhill, 30–39. London: Routledge, 1991.

Fiddler, James and Barbara Stanwyck, “Barbara Stanwyck Answers Twenty Timely Questions.” Movie Classic, June, 1933, 22.

Griffith, Richard. The Talkies Articles and Illustrations from Photoplay Magazine 1928–1940. New York: Dover, 1971.

Hagen, Ray, and Laura Wagner. Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames. London: MacFarland & Company, 2004.

Hall, Mordaunt. “Miss Stanwick Triumphs.” New York Times, May 24, 1930, 35.

Hartman, Susan. The Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s. Boston: Twayne, 1982.

Haskell, Molly. From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies. London: New English Library, 1974.

Holland, Jack. “I Want to Remember.” Movieland, July, 1948, 61, 76–8.

Kerr, Martha. “Barbara’s Back!” Modern Screen, February, 1936, 43.

Krazok, Bessie. “Letter”. Photoplay, January, 1932, 10.

Mayer, David. “Acting in Silent Film: Which Legacy of the Theatre?” In Screen Acting, edited by Peter Krämer and Alan Lovell, 10–30. London: Routledge, 1999.

McBride, Joseph. Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success. London: Faber, 1992.

Naremore, James. Acting in the Cinema. Berkeley: U of California P, 1988.

Pudovkin, Vsevolod. Film Technique and Film Acting. London: Vision, 1958.

Renov, Michael. Hollywood’s Wartime Women: Representation and Ideology. Ann Harbor: UMI, 1988.

Rosenfield, Paul. “Saluting Stanwyck: A Life on Film.” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 1987,

Rowland, Alexander Jr. An Historical, Philosophical and Practical Essay on the Human Hair. London: Sherwood, Neely, & Jones, 1816.

Rupp, Leila. Mobilizing Women for War: German and American Propaganda, 1939–1945. Princeton: Princeton UP, l978.

Qiong Yu, Sabrina. Revisiting Star Studies: Cultures, Themes and Methods. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2017.

Sargeant, Winthrop. “Fifty Years of American Women,” Life, January 2, 1950, 64–67.

Schatz, Thomas. “Anatomy of a House Director.” In Frank Capra: Authorship and the Studio System, edited by Robert Sklar and Vito Zagarrio, 10–36. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1998.

Shingler, Martin. “Bette Davis: Malevolence in Motion.” In Screen Acting, edited by Peter Krämer and Alan Lovell, 46–58. London: Routledge, 1999.

Sikov, Ed. Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis. London: Aurum, 2007.

Sklar, Robert. Movie–Made America. New York: Vintage, 1994.

Sklar, Robert. “A Leap into the Void: Frank Capra’s Apprenticeship to Ideology.” In Frank Capra: Authorship and the Studio System, edited by Robert Sklar and Vito Zagarrio, 37—63. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1998.

Smith, Ellie. Starring Miss Barbara Stanwick. New York: Crown, 1985.

Ware, Susan. Holding Their Own: American Women in the 1930s. Boston: Twayne, 1982.

Westbrook, Robert. Why We Fought. Forging American Obligations in World War II. New York: Smithsonian Institution, 2012.

W.H.M., “Barbara Gets Beautified.” Picturegoer, July 12, 1941, 9.


The Barbara Stanwick Show, The Frightened Doll, 1961,




How to Cite

Vacirca, S. (2023). Barbara Stanwyck’s Grey Hair. ZoneModa Journal, 13(2), 91–106.