The magnificent Barbara Stanwyck made her final public appearance in this AFI salute program honoring her landmark film career. Ms. Stanwyck was only the third woman to be honored with the award, following Bette Davis and Lillian Gish. The 80-year-old star was suffering from major back problems at the time and could not sit out front at a table like all previous honorees but she watched on a monitor backstage surrounded by several close friends and the cameras occasionally caught her viewing the ceremony. The show ended with the triumphant "Missy", somewhat frail but still beautiful, sharp, and warm escorted on stage to a standing ovation and a moving speech thanking the scores of people who contributed to her life and career over the years.
So few of Stanwyck's contemporaries were still around but Fred MacMurray (with his still gorgeous wife June Haver), Billy Wilder, Robert Wagner, and a fantastic-looking Eve Arden spoke briefly, as did her television costars Linda Evans and Charlton Heston and several Stanwyck admirers who never worked with her including John Huston, Shirley MacLaine, and Walter Matthau. The scarcity of contemporaries was unfortunate but inevitable given the late date (Stanwyck herself would pass away within three years) but the film clips segments were terrific and seeing our beloved Missy one last time was absolutely heartwarming and moving.
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