Barbara Stanwyck, born Ruby Catherine Stevens (July 16, 1907 January 20, 1990) was one of the greatest screen actresses of Hollywood's studio era, who appeared in both movies and television and had successes during The Pre-Code Era and The Golden Age of Hollywood.
She had a rough childhood. Stanwyck was orphaned at the age of four when her mother died from a car crash caused by a drunk and her father disappeared while working at the Panama Canal. Stanwyck's sister Mildred got a Promotion to Parent at the ripe old age of nine. Mildred got a job as a dancer in a traveling theater troupe, and Ruby tagged along sometimes, thus getting a taste for show business. When she was 16 she got a job dancing in the Ziegfeld Follies. This led to parts on the stage, and starring roles on Broadway by the time she was 20. That, in turn, led to parts in movies in the late silent era, and by 1930, starring roles.
Stanwyck made 85 films over a 38-year motion picture career. She continued to be a leading actress for decades, at a time when fellow stars such as Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, and Ingrid Bergman ebbed and flowed in their fortunes and star power. Her incredible range was the main reason - she could play a self-sacrificing, noble mother (Stella Dallas), or a slutty, gold-digging schemer (Baby Face), or a con artist with a heart of gold (The Lady Eve), or a murderous Femme Fatale (Double Indemnity), or a screwball comedy heroine (Ball of Fire).
Directors almost unanimously praised her, whether it was Frank Capra, William A. Wellman, Preston Sturges, Samuel Fuller, Douglas Sirk and even a notoriously prickly actor-hating director like Fritz Lang called her "an angel".
Stanwyck was nominated for four competitive Academy Awards but never won. As she got older she moved to television (her last film was in 1964), most notably as the steely family matriarch Victoria Barkley in the western series, The Big Valley, and won three Emmy Awards. She also received an honorary Oscar in 1982 for her whole body of work.
She was married to Robert Taylor from 1939 to 1951.
Barbara Stanwyck on TV Tropes:
- Ladies of Leisure (1930)
- Illicit (1931)
- The Miracle Woman (1931)
- Night Nurse (1931)
- Forbidden (1932)
- The Purchase Price (1932)
- So Big! (1932)
- Baby Face (1933)
- The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
- Ladies They Talk About (1933)
- Stella Dallas (1937)
- The Mad Miss Manton (1938)
- Golden Boy (1939)
- Union Pacific (1939)
- Remember the Night (1940)
- Ball of Fire (1941)
- The Lady Eve (1941)
- Meet John Doe (1941)
- Lady of Burlesque (1943)
- Double Indemnity (1944)
- Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
- My Reputation (1946)
- The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
- Cry Wolf (1947)
- Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
- No Man of Her Own (1950)
- Clash by Night (1952)
- Titanic (1953)
- Executive Suite (1954)
- Forty Guns (1957)
- The Big Valley (TV series, 1965-69)
- The Thorn Birds (TV miniseries, 1983)
- Contralto of Danger: Stanwyck apparently started smoking at nine. She didn't quit until a few months before her death. Explains her deep voice.
- Deadpan Snarker: Much of her movie and television roles. In an Only Sane Woman way.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Barbara's voice stuck out in her film career because she spoke in her natural Brooklyn accent, whereas other Hollywood actors at the time were taught to speak in a "Mid Atlantic"/sophisticated accent.
- Stage Names: An interesting case of someone born with a fairly generic name (Ruby Stevens) choosing a more unusual stage name, with "Barbara" coming from a character she played in a Broadway play, and "Stanwyck" from the surname of one of the other actresses in the play.
- Those Two Actors: Did...