Gardner Vs. Stanwyck: A Fair Fight?

Jeanine Basinger looks at two recent biographies and does a compare-and-contrast between Ava Gardner and Barbara Stanwyck. There’s absolutely no question that Stanwyck is the greater star and the more wide-ranging actress. And the book about her — the first part of Victoria Wilson’s terrific and detailed biography — is much richer than the one about Gardner. I had forgotten that the two performers had appeared together in a 1949 MGM pictured called “East Side, West Side.” Basinger writes: ‘Based on a soap-opera-ish novel by Marcia Davenport, ‘East Side, West Side’ put MGM’s assets on show: Cyd Charisse (in a non-dancing role), Nancy Davis (soon to be Mrs. Ronald Reagan), James Mason (at his most suave), and Gale Sondergaard and Van Heflin (both Oscar winners). The headliners were Barbara Stanwyck and Ava Gardner, appearing together for the first and only time. They portrayed the two women in Mason’s life, wife (Stanwyck) and lover (Gardner), and they were given a single scene to confront the situation.’

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