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Barbara Stanwyck
1907 – 1990

Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Catherine Stevens in Brooklyn, New York on July 16, 1907. When she was four years old her mother died after being knocked off a trolley by a drunken passenger. Her father abandoned the family, so she and her siblings were placed in foster care. Years later while living with her older sister Millie, who was a showgirl, Barbara learned to dance. She bounced in and out of school until age 14 then quit school to pursue what she felt was her destiny. Her dream was to become a star. While performing in a chorus line the great Broadway producer David Belasco noticed her, changed her name to Barbara Stanwyck and cast her in his play "The Noose." The play was a smash hit and Barbara became a star at age 20. The 1927 Broadway stage play, “Burlesque”, sky rocked her career as a cabaret dancer and actress.

On August 26, 1928, she married comedian Frank Fay and soon departed New York for Hollywood. Immediately Barbara's movie career exploded with leading roles in "The Locked Door" and "Mexicali Rose." During the economic struggles of the 1930's she played women who overcame poverty and adversity thus she became a symbol of the triumphant underdog. She made three to four movies a year and was known as one of the hardest working actresses in Hollywood. Due to shrewd to financial investments Barbara became one of the wealthiest women in the United States. The Fay’s adopted a son, Anthony Fay (Dion), in the early 1930’s. By 1935 the marriage crumbled due to her success and Frank Fay’s drinking problem that made him unemployable. The divorce was finalized on December 30, 1935. The film "A Star is Born" is said to have been modeled on their marriage. In the early 1950’s, Barbara became estranged from her son seeing him only several more times before her death.

Robert Taylor co starred with Barbara in the film, “His Brother’s Wife” in 1936. During that film they became romantically involved. During the next several years, Stanwyck became a business partner with her agent, Zeppo Marx, in a thoroughbred breeding and training ranch named Marwyck Ranch. Marx and Stanwyck each purchased 10 acres of land adjacent to the northern edge of Marwyck and built large Hollywood style ranch houses. Paul Revere Williams was commissioned to design Barbara’s 6,500 sq. ft., two story home with four fireplaces, eight bathrooms, five bedrooms, a three car garage, tennis court and large swimming pool. The ranch owners’ properties were located on a knoll overlooking the 130 acre horse ranch and farmland. Taylor and Stanwyck married on May 14, 1939. In 1940 Stanwyck sold her home to comic actor Jack Oakie. In the same year she sold her share of Marwyck Ranch to Marx. Stanwyck and Taylor divorced on February 25, 1952. The Stanywck property was renamed Oakridge by Jack Oakie. The house on 9.47 acres still exists today with restoration plans in progress.

Besides owning and operating a thoroughbred breeding business, Stanwyck continued to star in film after film.
In 1937, she starred in the movie "Stella Dallas" which earned her the first of four Academy Award nominations. She lost that nomination but continued to get leading roles in blockbuster films. In 1939, she starred in "Golden Boy" with William Holden. Barbara fought hard to cast Holden for the leading role and he remained extremely grateful to her for launching his career. Holden thanked her publicly at the 50th Academy Awards ceremony, which brought tears to her eyes. She was known for her kindness and generosity towards other performers. Her other three Academy nominations were in 1941 for "Ball of Fire," 1944 for "Double Indemnity" and in 1948 for "Sorry, Wrong Number." Presenter, John Travolta, who said that she had been a favorite in his family for years, awarded an Honorary Oscar to Barbara in 1982. She is often called "the best actress who never won an Oscar." Stanwyck did win several Emmy's for "The Big Valley" and "The Thorn Birds" among other shows. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1751 Vine Street. The Hall of the Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum inducted her in 1973. Barbara never lost her love of horses and riding. Stanwyck is remembered as one of the most successful film actresses of Hollywood’s classic era, admired universally for her strong screen presence and versatility as a performer.

In 1981 she was beaten and robbed by a home intruder. Following that incident she didn't appear as much in public although she continued to be involved in charity work. A fire in 1985 destroyed her home. Losing Robert Taylor's love letters was devastating. Heavy smoking and her workaholic schedule finally ended her life. Stanwyck died of congestive heart failure and emphysema on January 20, 1990. There were no funeral services and there is no grave. Her ashes were scattered in Lone Pine, California. The illustrious career of Barbara Stanwyck spanned 59 years.

Stanwyck Filmography

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