Barbara Stanwyck was an American actress who was born as Ruby Catherine Stevens on July 16, 1907 in Brooklyn, New York. She died on January 20, 1990 in Santa Monica, California.
Career: At the tender age of fourteen, Barbara Stanwyck started working for a living, skipped school and escaped her foster homes. She started out with temporary jobs and ultimately tried to break into show business at the age of sixteen. She worked as a chorus girl for a couple of years and as a dance instructor, before she auditioned for a part in The Noose. The play did not skyrocket until its second run which lasted nine months and resulted in her change of moniker from Ruby Stevens to Barbara Stanwyck.
in 1927, film producer Bob Kane responded to The Noose‘s rave reviews and mentions of Barbara Stanwyck’s talent and screen-tested her for Broadway Lights. At the same time, she successfully continued her stage career by getting the lead in Burlesque. In 1928, she got married to fellow actor Frank Fay with whom she moved out to Los Angeles to seek a career in Hollywood. In contrast to her first husband, Barbara Stanwyck managed to land a couple of parts in late 1920s talkies. Her success however only slowly started in the 1930s after Frank Capra had chosen her for a part in Ladies of Leisure (1930). Baby Face (1933) and Stella Dallas (1937) followed, adding to the diversity of her acting and her range. In 1935, Barbara Stanwyck got divorced from her husband and won custody of her adopted son Dion Anthony. One year later, she met Robert Taylor, her co-star on His Brother’s Wife set in 1936. MGM arranged their marriage in 1939 and they enjoyed a good first couple of years together on their ranch in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles.
In the 1940s, she was an established queen of the silver screen who starred alongside Henry Fonda and other big name stars in box office hits like Double Indemnity (1944), Christmas in Connecticut (1945) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948). In 1944, she was listed as the highest-paid women in Hollywood who was equally popular among crew members and colleagues as she was with her audience. In the 1950s, Barbara Stanwyck filed for divorce after her husband’s affair with Lana Turner had become public knowledge. She did not remarry and collected alimony from him for the rest of her life. Her movie career also slowly began to crumble and thus decided to move on to television. In 1961, she started The Barbara Stanwyck Show and later to the popular Western show Big Valley four years later. In the 1980s, she turned down a lead in Falcon Crest and worked on popular programs like The Thorn Birds, Dynasty and its spin-off The Colbys instead.
Throughout her career, Barbara Stanwyck received four Academy Award nominations before she was finally rewarded with an honorary Oscar for superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting in 1982. She received three EMMY awards and two additional nominations for her work on The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Big Valley and The Thorn Birds. Furthermore, she received an SAG lifetime achievement award and won two Golden Globes out of a total of five nominations.
Characters: Barbara Stanwyck knew how to max out her presence on the silver screen with emotional grace. Her style always earthy yet bordering the sassy, she never played her characters with a sense of naivete. She made clear she was someone no man or woman should ever underestimate. She could be dazzlingly beautiful or dangerous, always sincere and rarely hysterical. She was an excellent temptress, sizzling with diversity and experience.
DVD: All I Desire, Annie Oakley, Baby Face, Ball of Fire, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, BF’s Daughter, Big Valley, Breakfast for Two, The Bride Wore Boots, Cattle Queen of Montana, Christmas in Connecticut, Clash by Night, Crime of Passion, Cry Wolf, Double Indemnity, East Side West Side, Escape to Burma, Executive Suite, The File on Thelma Jordan, Forty Guns, The Furies, Golden Boy, The Great Man’s Lady, Hollywood Canteen, Internes Can’t Take Money, Jeopardy, The Lady Eve, The Lady Gambles, Lady of Burlesque, The Mad Miss Manton, The Man with a Cloak, Meet John Doe, The Moonlighter, My Reputation, Remember the Night, Roustabout, The Secret Bride, Sorry Wrong Number, Stella Dallas, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, There’s Always Tomorrow, Titanic, To Please a Lady, The Two Mrs Carrolls, The Violent Man, The Woman in Red, You Belong to Me
VHS: All I Desire, Baby Face, Ball of Fire, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, Blowing Wind, Cattle Queen of Montana, Christmas in Connecticut, Clash by Night, Crime of Passion, Cry Wolf, Double Indemnity, East Side West Side, Golden Boy, The Great Man’s Lady, Illicit, Internes Can’t Take Money, Ladies They Talk About, Lady Eve, Lady of Burlesque, Mad Miss Manton, Maverick Queen, Meet John Doe, The Miracle Woman, Night Walker, To Please a Lady, Purchase Price, Red Salute, Remember the Night, Roustabout, Sorry Wrong Number, Stella Dallas, Titanic, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, The Two Mrs Carrolls, Union Pacific, The Violent Man
Personal recommendations (in alphabetical order):
- The Barbara Stanwyck Show, 1960-61
- Big Valley TV series, 1965-69
- Forty Guns, 1957
- Sorry, Wrong Numer, 1948
- Titanic, 1953
Sources for more on Barbara Stanwyck: