Classic Cinema #39: Sorry Wrong Number (1948) – By Jason S. Lockard

Many may know her as just the matriarch of the Barkley’s on the hit western from the 70s The Big Valley, but that was just a snapshot in the epic career of Barbara Stanwyck.

Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Catherine Stevens in Brooklyn, New York on July 16, 1907. Ruby the youngest child of Catherine Ann and Byron E. Stevens. At age 14, Ruby dropped out of school and took a job wrapping packages at a department store in Brooklyn. Ruby never attended high school. After a series of no where jobs a few month shy of her 16th birthday Ruby auditioned for a place in the chorus in a night club. A few months later, she obtained a job as a dancer for the Ziegfeld Follies, dancing at the New Amsterdam Theater, during this time of dancing burlesque she would adopt her stage name Barbara Stanwyck.

Stanwyck would move to making pictures and her first sound film was 1929’s The Locked Door. Barbara was up for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind, even though she didn’t get to play that part she go on to have a great film career that would bring us many great films including, 1941s The Lady Eve, 1944s Double Indemnity and 1945s Christmas in Connecticut. Than just a short three years later she would star in our film this month, Sorry Wrong Number.

Young, rich and bedridden these words describe Leona Stevenson, a spoiled daughter of a millionaire played to the teeth by Barbara Stanwyck. Leona’s only connection to the world is her telephone. One day, while listening on a crossed phone connection, she eavesdrops on two men planning a woman’s murder. She calls the phone company and police, only to be ignored by all. Leona soon finds out that her husband Henry is missing only adding to her panic dilemma.

Leona’s terror increases after she begins receiving phone calls. She pieces together the puzzle of this mystery and realizes that she is the intended victim. How could she defend herself if these killers come to kill her? Do they kill her? Will Henry show up and defend her? Or is there an even more devious plot under all? All these questions are answered when you watch this thrilling film noir, Sorry Wrong number!

Her successful career would span from the big screen to the small screen as well with The Barbara Stanwyck Show, The Big Valley, guest shots on Bonanza and The Thorn Birds. During her career she would garnering nominations and wins of Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, Golden Globes and many other awards.

Stanwyck had been a smoker from age nine and on January 20, 1990 Barbara Stanwyck died of congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at age 82 at Saint John’s Health Center.

So this being the 23rd anniversary of the death of this screen legend I highly recommend you go out and pick up a copy of Sorry Wrong Number or one of her other great films and celebrate the legacy of Barbara Standwyck. So until next time this is Jason Lockard reminding you if you want to see a good film, check out a classic.

Moral Rating: Adult Situations
Audience: Parental Guidance
Genre: Film Noir
Length: 88 minutes
Released: 1948
Our Rating: B-