Few actresses better represented 1940’s Hollywood as well as Barbara Stanwyck. Everything about her seems to have summed up the glamor, sex appeal, and strength of the 40s. For those of us who weren’t yet born, we can get a great idea of what this time must have “felt” like. You get the impression that people were excited about the future – especially in Hollywood. There seemed to have been a feeling of excitement and anticipation of changing times. So much so, you can almost see it on certain star’s faces!
I’ve always been fascinated with Barbara Stanwyck. There’s something different about her that makes her stand apart from other actresses of her time – a kind of strength and non-conformity, a lot like Katharine Hepburn. In fact, I often thought of her as Katherine Hepburn on the small screen. Naturally, she was on the big screen as well, but she’s best known for her memorable stint on The Big Valley.
Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Catherine Stevens on July 16, 1907 in Brooklyn, New York. While working at a local telephone company, Barbara held fast to her dream of making it to Hollywood. She (literally) pounded the pavement, looking for work as a dancer and, at 17, was hired as a chorus girl. This led her to Hollywood and to her dreams coming true.
The Woman in Red, Barbara Stanwyck, 1935 Photographic Print
Buy at AllPosters.com
While Barbara is best remembered as Victoria, the matriarch of the Barkleys, on the TV western “The Big Valley” (1965), she is also fondly remembered as a grand dame from the hit drama “The Colbys” (1985). However, she is also known to millions of fans for her movie career, which spanned from 1927 to 1964.
Barbara Stanwyck’s co-stars considered her to be an ideal co-star, thanks to her serious but easygoing attitude on the set. She worked hard at being an actress, but she never allowed her star quality to go to her head. She was nominated for four Academy Awards, though somehow she never won. However, in 1982 she was awarded an honorary Academy Award for “superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting.”
Barbara Stanwyck died on January 20, 1990 in Santa Monica, California from congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive lung disease, and emphysema. She left behind 93 movies and a beautiful, memorable spot in television history. Barbara may be gone, but Victoria will live on forever…. and, of course, Barbara will live on through her and her other roles.
Ah, the beauty of re-runs, dvds, and networks like TV Land that allow this to be possible.
Favorite Barabara Stanwyck Quotes:
During Double Indemnity (1944), Fred MacMurray would go to rushes [viewings of daily completed shots]. 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.
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.
[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.”
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.
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.
[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.
Barbara Stanwyck, 1940 Photographic Print
Buy at AllPosters.com