Anthony Lane (who else?) on Barbara Stanwyck in this week's New Yorker:
Tucked into her résumé are a number of movies in which the old, high-stepping talents were dusted off: “Ten Cents a Dance” (1931) and “Lady of Burlesque” (1943), which boasts not only my favorite screen credit of all time (“Based on the novel ‘G-String Murders’ by Gypsy Rose Lee”) but a snappy speech in which Stanwyck, playing a dancer, explains her froideur to a vaudeville comic who has the hots for her, and in so doing glances back at the rearing of Ruby Stevens [Stanwyck's real name]:
I went into show business when I was seven years old. Two days later the first comic I ever met stole my piggy bank at a railroad station in Portland. When I was eleven, the comics were looking at my ankles. When I was fourteen, they were . . . just lookin’.
During that brief pause, Stanwyck works in a shrug and the raise of an eyebrow. Film theory has dwelled, with justice, on what is called the objectifying male gaze—that is, the power of the camera to ogle and depersonalize, and to encourage the viewer to follow suit—without always remembering that, at Hollywood’s height, there were plenty of people who could take that gaze like a punch and throw it right back.