Trying to find a gift for film professor cousin.
September 17, 2010 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Thinking of getting him a Barbara Stanwyck movie poster; is that good? Which one?

Hi guys! Gotta fire off this question quick before I go to work--will update later if I forget anything. My fiancee and I are scrambling last minute to find a gift for her cousin, who will be officiating at our wedding next week. He's the head of the film department at his university, and he specializes in old studio-era films of the 30s and 40s. When he came to visit us in LA a few years ago he took us along to see a screening of two Barbara Stanwyck films ("Golden Boy" and "Stella Dallas").

My fiancee thought an old film poster might be a good gift--and not knowing much about the era, or her cousins tastes, we naturally narrowed it down to Stanwyck films. Here's what we're choosing between so far:

There's Always Tomorrow
Union Pacific.

Can anyone tell us if these movies were even any good? Or offer some other suggestions... subjectivity quite welcome, please just explain your thinking to a couple of classic film uninitiated!
posted by theDTs to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
Can't tell you about the films, but if it is a present for an adult, please either buy it framed or buy a frame along with it.
posted by griphus at 12:10 PM on September 17, 2010

You might consider "Double Indemnity." It's one of her most famous roles (she's fabulous in it) and a deservedly legendary film. I googled "double indemnity poster," and a number of options came up.
posted by dunadan17 at 12:13 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about Sorry, Wrong Number? It was one of the four films that Stanwyck was nominated for an Oscar for (she never won, but eventually got an honorary award).
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:27 PM on September 17, 2010

This is a tricky question. IMO, the Sorry, Wrong Number poster is, unfortunately, quite horrid as something to put on your wall and look at every day.

And Double Indemnity, while a great film, is kind of the low-hanging fruit of her work, and also doesn't have a particularly great poster.

If you wanted him to be able to mess with people's heads, you could go for her 1953 version of Titanic.

Personally, if I was going to live around a Stanwyck poster every day, I'd want this one, from Stella Dallas. It's the best presentation I've ever seen of her as an iconic figure, and the film earned her her first Oscar nomination.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any place that actually sells that poster, and the one you can buy, I don't think is much better than the Sorry, Wrong Number poster. It just makes her look like Madeline Kahn.

Is there a reason why both the ones you cite are 14x36 inserts instead of the more common one-sheet size or is that just coincidence? If that's a requirement, it will greatly limit your choices.
posted by Naberius at 12:45 PM on September 17, 2010

I took a film class with a huge Barbara Stanwick fan and he had us watch The Lady Eve. Bonus - also stars Henry Fonda and was directed by Preston Sturges, so it's a true classic. Unfortanately, the English version of the poster isn't as great as some of the foreign ones. I like the Spanish ones.
posted by Sukey Says at 12:53 PM on September 17, 2010

I love this idea but I agree that I'd aim for one of her best films. (Also, I personally think Double Indemnity is also one of the best of all time. Here are a few options re that film.)
posted by bearwife at 12:54 PM on September 17, 2010

I would suggest not doing the movie poster at all and instead spend your money on a very nice bottle of wine or whiskey if he's into that sort of thing. As head of a university film department he's going to have extremely refined tastes and I think it highly unlikely you'll be able to hit on something he would truly enjoy. Do you know if he even has an interest in movie posters? Does he display them in his home or office?
posted by otio at 1:13 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Are you buying a real poster or a repro?

Misc. Man has Thelma Jordan which isn't a great movie, but it's a helluva poster.

tagline: Most men have known at least one Thelma Jordan.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:19 PM on September 17, 2010

There's Always Tomorrow is an incredible film, but depicts marriage in a rather painful, melancholy light (though I suppose it could be appropriate in some ways). Forty Guns would be a fun one, though (at least if your cousin has taste like the academic film people I know).

Though as a serious film person myself (I'm actually writing from beside a running 35mm projector) I agree to some extent with otio's suggestion that you give your cousin something not related to film at all.
posted by bubukaba at 7:02 PM on September 17, 2010

If you gave this adorer of Barbara Stanwyck the choice of one poster, I would pick The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. (towards the bottom of the page)

I think it's generally included among her major performances. And that pulpy illustration of her making a monkey of Van Heflin is wonderful.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:31 PM on September 17, 2010

Thanks for the responses so quickly.

We asked his wife and she thinks the film poster is a great idea as he has nothing on his walls in either office yet (he is only in his 2nd year teaching)
We will get it professionally framed.
We do not want a poster like one of his students would have plastered on their dorm room. We would like something original or reproduction. Not looking to spend more than a couple hundred though. We noticed there are original Lobby Cards for sale. Thought these would look great framed as a set.
posted by theDTs at 9:08 AM on September 18, 2010

My favorite Stanwyck film is Ball of Fire, but the posters for it are not that interesting. Another thing to consider is an international poster - Polish film posters, for example, are often very beautiful and can be more affordable and unique gifts. This site has a number of Stanwyck items, including a Japanese poster for Union Pacific. This might just be the sort of thing that is obscure/geeky/cool enough to really excite him.
posted by judith at 11:39 PM on September 19, 2010

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