Barbara Stanwyck times 2: Kenneth Turan's DVD pick of the week

Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times Film Critic

This has been a fine season for fans of the perennially under-appreciated star Barbara Stanwyck. The first part of "A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940," a massive two-volume biography by Victoria Wilson, has been getting review attention. Now, Sony Pictures Choice Collection has brought out new DVD editions of a pair of her best early roles.

"The Bitter Tea of General Yen," one of the most poetic of all Hollywood titles, features Stanwyck as a western missionary who turns the head of a powerful Chinese warlord (played by Swedish actor Nils Asther) in this 1933 Frank Capra-directed production.

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"The Miracle Woman" came out two years earlier, in 1931. It stars Stanwyck as an evangelist, modeled after Los Angeles' own Aimee Semple McPherson, who knows how to turn faith into hard cash. Her performance is enough to make you believe.

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