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The Great Man's Lady

Friday, June 5, 2015, 8 p.m., Dryden Theatre

The great man in the title could refer to director William Wellman just as easily as it does to the character played by Joel McCrea in this fourth pairing of the director with Barbara Stanwyck, his favorite actress. Stanwyck plays a young Philadelphia woman who elopes with McCrea, a man with big ideas of settling a new town in the west. She has just the right pioneering spirit to leave her old life behind, follow him to the frontier, and steadfastly support him as he rises to become a great man in politics, even after an unexpected tragedy causes their paths to diverge. Hollywood makeup magician Wally Westmore transformed 34-year-old Stanwyck into a woman of 100, using foam rubber to form wrinkles on her face and toilet paper and spirit gum on her hands to resemble loose aged skin. Westmore also helped in making her feel old, first by taking her to the Masonic Old Ladies’ Home in Santa Monica for inspiration in how an elderly woman walks, sits, and holds her body, and by designing a harness for her to wear underneath her clothes to keep her from moving freely, all to great and natural effect in the film.