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Walk of Fame

Walk of Fame
107th Edition
(The opinions expressed herein are soley my own.) 

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 Tough Chicks
I was thinking this past week after one of my favorite primetime shows a western called "Longmire" had been canceled, that I have always loved tough-talking strong women. It goes back to my childhood and me being planted in front of the TV watching unflinching gun-totting divas like Bette Davis in old movies and straight-shooting matriarchs like Barbara Stanwyck's Victoria Barkley on "The Big Valley."  You can tell Davis and Stanwyck were early influences on Robin Strasser. You can see a lot of elements from their performances in her acting.  This particular WOF focuses on Stanwyck.

I loved, loved, loved the Big V and Stanwyck. Man she was tough but vulnerable when it came to her family. Sounds a lot like Dorian Lord, huh? The series aired from 1965-1969. Looking at when the western actually aired, it's interesting that it caught my attention at such a young age, but it did or rather Stanwyck did. Torey L.King describes Stanwyck's Barkley to perfection in an article about  "warrior women":

As Victoria Barkley, Stanwyck regularly confronts life-threatening situations and hostile adversaries. And like some mythic figure, Victoria triumphs over all, out-shooting and out-smarting her (usually male) opponents. In the series, the petite matriarch engages in physical fights with men and frequently wins; is dragged by horses; encounters natural disasters such as collapsing mines and earthquakes; and rescues other characters from these same disasters. Victoria is so skilled in triumphing over adversity that, in one episode, she saves her daughter Audra (Linda Evans) and herself from armed assailants without the use of a gun. In such situations, Victoria's courage and physical prowess is coupled with an obvious intelligence and ability t

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o deal competently wit

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h emergencies and threats to her life.

In an interview with soap journalist Michael Fairman, Strasser said of  Dorian Lord's scenes where she pulls a gun on Mitch Laurence for threatening her Cramer women:
(She makes a fist) The thought that anybody would be threatening my girls, you know? I always wanted to make it looked like I was going to pull that trigger. And I kept saying to the writers, 'Couldn't I please?'  I walked in with that intention.  Every time I looked at the scene...I got the clothes on, the make up, the hair.... They gave me the gun and I said 'if I've got the gun, I'm going to make it look like I'm going to use it.' And I then had to mix in the ingredients of why she stops and doesn't.

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In my book, dark characters have more texture, layers. It was Stanwyck's  tough chick roles that caught my attention early on.  Margaret Talbot wrote in The New Yorker  when reviewing the Stanwyck biography "Steel True":

She (Stanwyck) excelled at playing women with their own best interests in mind, tough women with hard shells, but she was also gifted at playing on the edge, where anger and defensiveness part to reveal a glinting vulnerability.

By the 60s, Stanwyck was in her late 50s and early 60s when she starred on The Big Valley. She also was a bonafide movie star, who excelled in comedy as well as drama. The below quote is from Stanwyck's biography at tcm.com :

Barbara Stanwyck was a dazzling study in contrasts. At times sultry and sweet; vulnerable and tough; comedic and dramatic; joyous and tragic - she simply was one of the greatest and most unique actresses during Hollywood's Golden Era. She could play wha

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tever the part re

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quired, whether it was madcap glamour in comedies like "The Lady Eve" (1941), tough-minded feminism in weepies like "Stella Dallas" (1937), or poisonous vixens in noir classics like "Double Indemnity" (1944). A working-class girl from Brooklyn, she became one of the richest women in the United States due to wise investments. On a personal level, she was wildly popular among her peers, yet died a virtual recluse. Most astounding of all, she gave some of the most unforgettable performances in film history, yet never won an Academy Award for her work. Like many an aging glamour girl, she moved reluctantly into TV in the 1950s and 1960s when her movie career declined, but became an even bigger star than she had been before. Barbara Stanwyck - an American original and the true essence of the word "dame" - like no other actress of her generation enjoyed a long, varied career in film and television while remaining beloved by her millions of fans.

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All things said, is it any wonder I would fall in love with Dorian Lord as played by Strasser? I had already come to admire Strasser for her performance as Rachel Davis on Another World, but her portrayal as Dorian, made me love her as an actress even more.

Firstly, Strasser as Dorian  was tough and bold. Dorian did what needed to be done even if it meant paying someone to take a life or doing it herself.   Secondly, she was gansta and would take no prisoners if anyone threatened to harm her family. Lastly, as an actress Strasser made brave acting choices for her character; consequently, audience members felt strongly that they somehow knew this fictional character so well-defined by Strasser. In a man's world, Dorian demanded to be treated as an equal while maintaining her sensuality as a woman. In short viva the dames and divas of the make believe who entertained fans with their toughness and hint of vulnerability. Strasser has called Stanwyck one of her favorite actresses. She is one of mine, too. In fact both actresses are favorites. Long live the queen, indeed.

Photo from We Love Soaps/ABC
CHEERS to Robin Strasser for 30 YEARS on One Life to Live
and a career spanning FIVE DECADES on Daytime Dramas as LEAD ACTRESS!
Contact webmistress forTHE DIVA WEBSITE FORUM at: cher1989@gmail.com

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