Glad to have the opportunity to have these six movies for a reasonable price, I give a five-star-rating, although not all of the pictures would deserve it.
"Executive Suite" (1954: dir.: Robert Wise): Craftsman vs. businessmen... The chief executive of a furniture enterprise suddenly deceases, and the while film deals with the question who will be his successor. The decisive meeting will take place in the "Executive Suite"... For a moment, you may be irritated that a Barbara Stanwyck box contains a picture with rather few (but very good) appearances of Barbara Stanwyck. But this is an outstanding ensemble film in which about ten persons each have an important part (e.g. William Holden, June Allyson, Barbara Stanwyck, Nina Foch, Water Pidgeon, Dean Jagger, Shelley Winters, Fredric March). They all give excellent performances. Especially the women are great in showing how emotional feelings have to be hidden in the world top management. Stanwyck, Foch and Winters each have a significant scene with a "silent scream" which is more touching than any overacting. Furthermore, the picture is perfectly constructed with all its linked subplots culminating in the final meeting, using no musical soundtrack at all, but the dramatic sound of a nearby huge bell. And the plot is more up-to-date than ever: Holden is the only engineer in the board of directors, mainly composed by mere accountants. Should one stick to the product to be sold or should one only stick to profit? "Wall Street"-director Oliver Stone explains in the audio commentary that in the fifties, the great US enterprises were taken over by a second generation of managers who had not built them up and who had no knowledge about the fabrication of their products. This is still worth watching and should be presented to all bankers from New York to Frankfurt. Five stars.
"East Side, West Side" (1949, dir.: Melvyn LeRoy): To me, this (melo-)drama about adultery is the most underrated Stanwyck picture ever. See my longer review of the single edition. Five stars.
"Jepoardy" (1953, dir.: John Sturges): A small thriller of only 69 minutes length and with no more than four performers (and some extras): A family (father, mother and a boy aged about ten) make a weekend trip in Mexico, and when the father (Barry Sullivan) is trapped under a bridge pier while the flood rises, his wife (Stanwyck) has to fetch a rope. Unable to get one, she finally meets a murderer on the loose (Ralph Meeker) who is the only person able to save her husband's life... This is a perfect study of US citizens going "abroad" and getting helpless, not only in a geographical, but also in a metaphorical way. It is clear that we have a typical suburban couple not used to explore the unexpected. Stanwyck and Sullivan are obviously a bit frightened by anything unknown and beyond their world of work, homework, gardening, inviting the neighbors etc. Mexico is only I few hours away, but to them, it's a totally new and dangerous world. Sullivan packs a gun ("you never know"), but is totally nervous when only being asked routine questions by two policemen. Stanwyck would not have met Meeker if only she had remembered the Spanish word for "rope" ("cuerdo") in a conversation with some Mexicans before. And the criminal is not Mexican, but a U.S. Citizen... Stanwyck once more gives a brilliant performance, and how helpless she may be at the beginning, in her scenes with Meeker, she is firmly decided to stand by her man - even if that means to leave him and to go with Meeker (which he demands in order to save Sullivan). You have to watch this strange mixture of toughness and tenderness, abomination and even seductiveness. This leads to a performance of a woman who finally is decided to keep her promise even if she will hate every minute of it. Stanwyck fulfils that difficult and almost paradoxical task with a maximum of credibility. The end of the picture is nevertheless surprising and not to be told. Five stars.
"My Reputation" (1943/46, dir.: Curtis Bernhardt): Barbara Stanwyck in a typical Bette Davis melodrama. She is a young, wealthy widow with two children getting acquainted to an officer (George Brent), but society does not want to have her happy so early after her first husband's death... Stanwyck gives a beautiful, touching performance, proving that she can not only be the tough lady. The rest of the picture is quite well, but not outstanding. The end is much too moral-driven, because it is never clear why we shall accept that some of the old conventions do make sense. This film suffers from the fact that is risks comparison with the earlier "Now, Voyager" (starring Bette Davis), e.g. by the appearance of Gladys Cooper in a similar role. I think the not-so-happy end in "Now, Voyager" is more convincing, because in "My Reputation", there is really no reason why our couple should not come together. Therefore, the script needs to invent what was natural and logical in "Now, Voyager". Four stars.
"Annie Oakley" (1935, dir.: George Stevens) is an important milestone in Stanwycks career, seeing her in a western for the first time. It is a fine comedy with a good Barbara Stanwyck who may ride and shoot better than most men - based on the story of the real Anny Oakley, the first woman to star in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. I haven't seen a movie as funny as any of the upcoming screwball comedies, neither is Stanwycks performance as complex and sophisticated as in later dramas, but it's quite good entertaining. Four stars.
"To Please A Lady" (1950, dir.: Clarence Brown) is nothing but routine, with a good Barbara Stanwyck as an investigative journalist meeting a racing driver (Clark Gable) and, of course, coming close to him after some dramatic events. The story is much too conventional, stereotype and predictable. Gable was a little bit too old for the part and acts with a total lack of irony or humor (even in his fifties, he would do better in later pictures and still be convincing as a leading man and romantic lover - see for example the Raoul Walsh pictures "The Tall Men" and "The King and Four Queens"). Nevertheless, the film is not boring at all and contains some very good racing scenes full of vivid action and suspense. Three stars.