Today Barbara Stanwyck is remembered primarily as the matriarch of the family known as the Barkleys on the TV western "The Big Valley" (1965), wherein she played Victoria, and from the hit drama "The Colbys" (1985). But she was known to millions of other fans for her movie career, which spanned the period from 1927 until 1964, after which she appeared on television until 1986. It was a career that lasted for 59 years. She was born Ruby Stevens on July 16, 1907, in Brooklyn, New York. She went to work at the local telephone company for $14 a week, but she had the urge (a dream--that was all it was) somehow to enter show business. When not working, she pounded the pavement in search of dancing jobs. The persistence paid off. Barbara was hired as a chorus girl for the princely sum of $40 a week, much better than the wages she was getting from the phone company. She was 17, and she was going to make the most of the opportunity that had been given her.

In 1928 Barbara moved to Hollywood, where she was to start one of the most lucrative careers filmdom had ever seen. She was an extremely versatile actress who could adapt to any role. Barbara was equally at home in all genres, from melodramas, such as Forbidden (1932) and Stella Dallas (1937), to thrillers, such as Double Indemnity (1944), one of her best films, also starring Fred MacMurray (as you have never seen him before). She also excelled in comedies such as Remember the Night (1940) and The Lady Eve (1941). Another genre she excelled in was westerns, Union Pacific (1939) being one of her first and TV's "The Big Valley" (1965) (her most memorable role) being her last. In 1983, she played in the ABC hit mini-series "The Thorn Birds" (1983), which did much to keep her in the eye of the public. She turned in an outstanding performance as Mary Carson.

Barbara was considered a gem to work with for her serious but easygoing attitude on the set. She worked hard at being an actress, and she never allowed her star quality to go to her head. She was nominated for four Academy Awards, though she never won. She turned in magnificent performances for all the roles she was nominated for, but the "powers that be" always awarded the Oscar to someone else. However, in 1982 she was awarded an honorary Academy Award for "superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting." Sadly, Barbara died on January 20, 1990, leaving 93 movies and a host of TV appearances as her legacy to us.
I'm a tough old broad from Brooklyn. I intend to go on acting until I'm ninety and they won't need to paste my face with make-up.
Barbara Stanwyck
In 1944, when Barbara Stanwyck earned $400,000, the government listed her as the nation's highest-paid woman.
Barbara Stanwyck
Ruby Catherine Stevens
16 July 1907, Brooklyn, New York
20 January 1990, Santa Monica, California
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Godmother of Bobbie Poledouris.

Sister-in-law of actress Caryl Lincoln.

Her stage name was inspired by a theatrical poster that read "Jane Stanwyck in 'Barbara Frietchie.'".

Her nickname among co-workers was "Missy" or "The Queen."

Often called "The Best Actress Who Never Won an Oscar."

According to biographical film Barbara Stanwyck: Fire and Desire (1991) (TV), Stanwyck became a model for women actors. Such stars as Sally Field and Virginia Madsen have publicly pointed to Stanwyck as their model.

American Film Institute Life Achievement Award. [1987]

Sister of actor Bert Stevens.

In the early 1950s, made a television commercial for Lustre Creme shampoo.

Was of Scots-Irish and English descent.

Her mother died when she was accidentally knocked off a trolley by a drunk. Barbara was four at the time.

Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1973.

Measurements: 33 1/4-23-33 1/2 (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine).

Her son, Dion Anthony "Tony" Fay, was born in February 1932. He was adopted on December 5, 1932.

Worked briefly as a fashion model in the late 1920s.

Was listed #11 on the American Film Institute's "100 Years of The Greatest Screen Legends."

Her wicked turn as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944) was ranked #8 on the American Film Institute's "100 Greatest Screen Heroes and Villains" list.

She was voted the 40th "Greatest Movie Star of All Time" by Entertainment Weekly.

Her stormy marriage to Frank Fay finally ended after a drunken brawl, during which he tossed their adopted son, Dion, into the swimming pool. Despite rumours of affairs with Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, Stanwyck wed Robert Taylor, who had gay rumours of his own to dispel. Their marriage started off on a sour note when his possessive mother demanded he spend his wedding night with her rather than with Barbara.

Picked up the starring role in Ball of Fire (1941) after Ginger Rogers dropped out.

She became estranged from her son in February 1951.

She lost a kidney in 1971.

In 1981 she was beaten and robbed in her bedroom by an intruder who woke her up at 1:00 in the morning.

In 1985, her house was destroyed in a fire. She was upset to lose all of Robert Taylor's love letters.

She did not have a funeral and has no grave. Her ashes are scattered in Lone Pine, California.

Her siblings were named Maude, Mable, Mildred ("Millie"), and Malcolm Byron ("Bert") Stevens. Her parents were Byron and Catherine McGee Stevens.

Ailing, she was replaced by Susan Hayward in Heat of Anger (1972) (TV), which was to have been a pilot for a prospective TV series to be called "Fitzgerald and Pride."

Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1751 Vine St.

Attended Erasmus Hall High School, New York City before dropping out at age 14.

Her papers are in the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, PO Box 3924, Laramie, WY 82071.

Turned down the role of Angela Channing on "Falcon Crest" (1981).

Her performance as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944) is ranked #98 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time list (2006).

Her performance as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944) is ranked #58 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time list.

Was best friends for many years with Frank Sinatra's first wife, Nancy.

A Star Is Born (1937) starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March is said to be modeled after Stanwyck's rise to stardom and first husband Frank Fay's descent into obscurity.

William Holden was considered to be too lightweight for the lead role in Golden Boy (1939), but Stanwyck urged producers to keep him in the picture and it was through her efforts he was kept in the picture, and the role made him a star. In 1978, at the The 50th Annual Academy Awards (1978) (TV), before starting the presentation of the sound award, Holden publicly thanked her for what she did. She nearly broke down in tears and kissed Holden, and the exchange received thunderous audience applause.

In Italy, almost all of her films were dubbed by Lidia Simoneschi. She was occasionally dubbed by Tina Lattanzi and Marcella Rovena. As Leona Stevenson in Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), she was dubbed by Andreina Pagnani. This was the only time the Italian actress lent her voice to Stanwyck.

Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 796-798. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.

Planned to play the lead in Mildred Pierce (1945), but Joan Crawford was faster and got the role.

She with Linda Evans in two series: "The Big Valley" (1965) and "Dynasty" (1981).

Profiled in "Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames" bu Ray Hagen and Laura Wagner (McFarland, 2004).

Profiled in "Back in the Saddle: Essays on Western Film and Television Actors", Gary Yoggy, ed. (McFarland, 1998).

Throughout her career she was known for her kindness and patience with younger performers. Marilyn Monroe, who worked with Stanwyck in the 1952 film Clash by Night (1952) said that Stanwyck was the only member of Hollywood's older generation who was kind to her.

When she was awarded an Honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement, the statuette was presented to her by John Travolta who later confessed that the experience was his supreme Oscar moment. Stanwyck had been a Travolta family favorite for years. [1982]

In 1957 Tony, her adopted son, was arrested for trying to sell lewd pictures while waiting to cash his unemployment check. When questioned by the press about his famous mother, he replied, "We don't speak." She saw him only a few times after his childhood.

Was considered for the role of Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950) after Claudette Colbert was forced to pull out of the project due to back injury. However the part was given to Bette Davis, who went on to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance.

She twice played a character named Jessica Drummond in two completely different movies: My Reputation (1946) and Forty Guns (1957).

Best remembered for her role on TV for her starring role as matriarch Victoria Barkley on "The Big Valley" (1965).

Her former "The Big Valley" (1965), co-stars, Peter Breck and Linda Evans, both have made guest appearances on her co-star's, Lee Majors, popular 1980s TV series, "The Fall Guy" (1981), but on different episodes.

Actors Peter Breck, Lee Majors and Linda Evans were said to be huge fans of hers, as little children. Together, all grown up, all three have co-starred alongside Stanwyck in the successful 1960s, western series, "The Big Valley" (1965).

She was a member of The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, group that was fervently anti-Communist and counted among its members Ginger Rogers, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, John Wayne and Irene Dunne.

Godmother of Tori Spelling.

Lived near Joan Crawford during her marriage to Frank Fay. According to Christina Crawford, Barbara scaled a fence on their property and stayed with the Crawfords for several days.

Her father was a bricklayer.

When Stanwyck was four years old her mother was killed by a drunk who pushed her off a streetcar.

Stanwyck's father abandoned his children in mad grief after the death of his wife. Stanwyck then grew up in a series of foster homes.

Profiled in book "Funny Ladies" by Stephen Silverman. [1999]

In February 1955 she was mentioned to be one of the female stars of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) but she never made the film.
During Double Indemnity (1944), Fred MacMurray would go to rushes. I remember asking Fred, "How was I?" [Fred's response was] "I don't know about you, but I was wonderful!" Such a true remark. Actors only look at themselves.

[Referring to director Frank Capra] Eyes are the greatest tool in film. Mr. Capra taught me that. Sure, it's nice to say very good dialogue, if you can get it. But great movie acting - watch the eyes!

Put me in the last fifteen minutes of a picture and I don't care what happened before. I don't even care if I was IN the rest of the damned thing - I'll take it in those fifteen minutes.

My only problem is finding a way to play my fortieth fallen female in a different way from my thirty-ninth.

Commenting in 1939 on the fact that her fiancé, Robert Taylor, at 28, was four years younger than she, which raised eyebrows then, Stanwyck said: "The boy's got a lot to learn and I've got a lot to teach."

It's perhaps not the future I would choose. I still think it's possible to make a success of both marriage and career, even though I didn't. But it's not a bad future. And I'm not afraid of it.

I couldn't remember my name for weeks. I'd be at the theater and hear them calling, 'Miss Stanwyck, Miss Stanwyck,' and I'd think, 'Where is that dame? Why doesn't she answer? By crickie, it's me!'

Egotism - usually just a case of mistaken nonentity.

There's nothing more fun in the whole world than seeing a child open a present at Christmas. To have a six-year-old boy stroke a bicycle with his eyes and, not daring to touch, turn and ask, 'Is it mine, Missy? Really mine?' That's part of my future. The rest is work. And, I hope, some wisdom.

Career is too pompous a word. It was a job and I have always felt privileged to be paid for doing what I love doing.

Attention embarrasses me. I don't like to be on display.

I want to go on until they have to shoot me.

[on filming Titanic (1953)] The night we were making the scene of the dying ship in the outdoor tank at Twentieth, it was bitter cold. I was 47 feet up in the air in a lifeboat swinging on the davits. The water below was agitated into a heavy rolling mass and it was thick with other lifeboats full of woman and children. I looked down and thought: If one of these ropes snaps now, it's good-by for you. Then I looked up at the faces lined along the rail -those left behind to die with the ship. I thought of the men and women who had been through this thing in our time. We were re-creating an actual tragedy and I burst into tears. I shook with great racking sobs and couldn't stop.
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