Best Known For
Barbara Stanwyck was an American actress who had a 60-year career in film and television, best known for her strong female roles in films, such as Double Indemnity.
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Born on July 16, 1907, in Brooklyn, Barbara Stanwyck appeared in more than 80 films, portraying a variety of strong-willed women. Her movies include Stella Dallas and the film noir classic Double Indemnity, in which she defined the femme fatale character. Stanwyck won Emmys for her television work in The Big Valley and The Barbara Stanwyck Show. She received an honorary Academy Award in 1981 and died in 1990.
"I want to go on until they have to shoot me."
"I don't give a damn what people think of me, as long as I'm doing something I think is right."
Film, television and theatre actress Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Stevens on July 16, 1907, in Brooklyn, New York. She had a troubled childhood, having become an orphan at the age of 4 after her mother pushed off of a moving streetcar and killed. Her father failed to cope with the loss of his wife and abandoned his five children.
The young Stanwyck—who was raised by her sister, a showgirl—was forced to grow up quickly after having been left to fend for herself, taking up smoking at age 9 and quitting school five years later. By age 15, she made her way into the entertainment industry after becoming a chorus girl and later made her Broadway debut in 1926 as a cabaret dancer in The Noose. This was shortly after she changed her name to Barbara Stanwyck.
Stanwyck made the transition from Broadway to the silver screen in the late-1920s, trying her hand at acting in the film Broadway Nights (1927) as a dancer. The following year, she married comedian Frank Fay and in 1929 she took on a part in the film The Locked Door (1929) before she finished her stage run on Broadway and moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in film. Although Stanwyck's career in film almost ended before it began with two unrecognized film roles under her belt, she managed to convince director Frank Capra to have a role in his film 1930 film Ladies of Leisure. The film garnered Stanwyck the attention that she desired.
Stanwyck's role as a woman whose priorities revolved around money first and foremost was only the first in a string of performances that showed a progressive, stronger side of women. After her acting chops were put on display, she was signed to a contract with Columbia and appeared in the film Illicit (1931). She soon followed with several popular films, including Ten Cents a Dance (1931), Night Nurse (1931) and Forbidden (1932), a film that took Stanwyck to Hollywood's A-list.
Stanwyck, along with Golden Age actresses like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, helped to redefine the typical role of women in film. Unlike the damsels in distress and happy housewives often shown in films during this era, Stanwyck a wide range of women, all having their own set of motives and ideals. Some examples of her landmark roles were in Ladies They Talk About (1932) and Annie Oakley (1935)—in which she played the titular role.
In 1937, Stanwyck's talent as an actress was recognized on a grander scale as she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Stella Dallas (1937). She would come to be nominated three more times for the films Ball of Fire (1941), Double Indemnity (1944) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)—each time for best actress in a leading role—however, she never won the award.
Included In These Groups
In entertainment, where the line between fiction and reality is often blurry, names are a crucial part of a celebrity's image. Stage names are often chosen to make an actor or musician's name easier to pronounce or remember, or simply to make it sounds more attractive. Here are famous celebrities who have changed their names.
Name Changers 236 people in this group
Honorary Oscar Recipients 81 people in this group
Primetime Soap Stars 36 people in this group