Barbara Stanwyck, American Actress
Born Ruby Catherine Stevens
July 16, 1907 – January 20,1990
Considered one of the finest actresses to work in American film productions of the 20th century. She was a favorite actress for many directors because of her no-nonsense work ethic and dedication to professional standards. In particular, Frank Capra and Cecil B. DeMille named her as a favorite to work with.
Shuttled through foster homes as a child, Ruby Catherine Stevens barely knew her parents, her mother (Catherine Ann McPhee) having died when Ruby was two, and her father (Byron Stevens) abandoning the family when she was four (Byron made an attempt to find work in the Panama Canal zone with a pledge to return to his family, but he apparently died there). Left under the direction of an older sister who was working in dance and theatre, Ruby was working full time by the age of 13, and was a dancing girl at 15.
In 1926 she was cast in the Willard Mack play "The Noose." Her first screen appearance is in a minor role in the 1927 film "Broadway Nights." This was followed with "The Locked Door," a film so ineptly made that Stanwyck's personal comment on the film was "They never should have unlocked that damn door." About to abandon Hollywood to return to stage work in New York City, she met with Frank Capra and soon made "Ladies of Leisure" in 1930. Pauline Kael said about this film:
"...the story is a museum piece of early talkies sentimentality, but, in a way, that only emphasizes Stanwyck's remarkable modernism. ...[she] seems to have an intuitive understanding of the fluid physical movements that work best on camera; perhaps she had been an unusually 'natural' actress even onstage." From Kael's book 5001 Nights At The Movies, published by Henry Holt, page 403.
A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1941
15 years in the writing, Victoria Wilson's bio of Stanwyck finally has an issue date from Simon-Schuster for September 2013. (This is only volume one of WIlson's life of Stanwyck, titled "Steel-True," covering Stanwyck's life up to 1941)
This book has been in the offing for a long time (I first read about it in 2001), originally titled "Barbara Stanwyck: Her Life, Her Work, Her Hollywood, Across an American Century" it is apparently now split into at least two volumes (if not more). With the first volume clocking in at over 1,000 pages, this is one of the largest biography's of an American actress (and certainly the longest of any book on Stanwyck) to yet come out.
Wilson owns a number of Stanwyck's personal correspondence, so her book should have a lot of previously unknown insights and information on the life of this American actress with the constantly revitalizing reputation. Stanwyck crossed from pre-code Hollywood into the golden age era, through 40s and 50s noir, and finally giving way to a few films in the 1960s and then into television work until her death in 1990.
More about Stanwyck.
By Dan Callahan
University Press of Mississippi, 272 pages, $35 ($23.10 at amazon.com)
New Stanwyck biography, the first since the Jane Ellen Wayne bio of Stanwyck from 2009. Cannot comment without seeing a copy. WIll endeavor to obtain one. Meanwhile, a positive (and charming) review of the book is at the Wall Street Journal. See a snippet below from the review:
Hail, the Conquering Heroine Review by Scott Eyman
One woman taught Hollywood how to act
Dan Callahan's "Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman" is a serious book about a serious woman, less a biography of an actress than a biography of her career. Mr. Callahan follows her choices of roles and tries to capture what she was saying about herself through her acting. It was an astonishing career, whose impressive outlines only became clear in retrospect. Most actors want to be loved—it's the Achilles' heel of the profession—but Stanwyck seems to have been after something else: respect.
Reading Mr. Callahan's book, I was reminded of an old John O'Hara potboiler called "A Rage to Live." Stanwyck had a rage to act. She wasn't the only one so afflicted in that lost time we call the Golden Age of Hollywood. James Cagney and John Garfield had some of the same sense of attack, which probably derived from shared New York roots and from the fact that acting was more than a family business or an expression of a need for approval. It was a means of ascent—the way out.
- From the review of the Callahan book at the Wall Street Journal
No disrespect to Mr. Callahan or his book (which, as I mentioned, I have not seen yet), many Stanwyck fans are still waiting on the Victoria Wilson book "Barbara Stanwyck: Her Life, Her Work, Her Hollywood, Across an American Century" coming (eventually?) from publishers Simon & Schuster.
Stanwyck Screen Career
She has 82 films listed at IMDB, and a dozen various TV shows (not counting her own short-lived "Barbara Stanwyck Show"). She worked onscreen from 1927 until 1986.
|1927||Broadway Nights||Fan dancer (uncredited)|
|1929||Mexicali Rose||Mexicali Rose|
|1929||The Locked Door||Ann Carter|
|1930||Ladies of Leisure||Kay Arnold|
|1931||The Miracle Woman||Florence Fallon|
|1931||Night Nurse||Lora Hart|
|1931||Ten Cents a Dance||Barbara O'Neill|
|1931||Illicit||Anne Vincent Ives|
|1932||The Purchase Price||Joan Gordon|
|1932||So Big!||Selina Peake De Jong|
|1933||Ever in My Heart||Mary Archer Wilbrandt|
|1933||Baby Face||Lily Powers|
|1933||Ladies They Talk About||Nan Taylor/Nan Ellis/Mrs. Andrews|
|1933||The Bitter Tea of General||Yen Megan Davis|
|1934||The Secret Bride||Ruth Vincent|
|1934||A Lost Lady||Marian Ormsby Forrester|
|1934||Gambling Lady||Lady Lee|
|1935||Annie Oakley||Annie Oakley|
|1935||Red Salute||Drue Van Allen|
|1935||The Woman in Red||Shelby Barret Wyatt|
|1936||The Plough and the Stars||Nora Clitheroe|
|1936||Banjo on My Knee||Pearl Elliott Holley|
|1936||His Brother's Wife||Rita Wilson Claybourne|
|1936||The Bride Walks Out||Carolyn Martin|
|1936||A Message to Garcia||Raphaelita Maderos|
|1937||Breakfast for Two||Valentine Ransome|
|1937||Stella Dallas||Stella Dallas|
|1937||This Is My Affair||Lil Duryea|
|1937||Internes Can't Take Money||Janet Haley|
|1938||The Mad Miss Manton||Melsa Manton|
|1938||Always Goodbye||Margot Weston|
|1939||Golden Boy||Lorna Moon|
|1939||Union Pacific||Mollie Monahan|
|1940||Remember the Night||Lee Leander|
|1941||Ball of Fire||Sugarpuss O'Shea|
|1941||You Belong to Me||Helen Hunt|
|1941||Meet John Doe||Ann Mitchell|
|1941||The Lady Eve||Jean|
|1942||The Gay Sisters||Fiona Gaylord|
|1942||The Great Man's Lady||Hannah Sempler|
|1943||Flesh and Fantasy||Joan Stanley (Episode 3)|
|1943||Lady of Burlesque||Deborah Hoople aka Dixie Daisy|
|1944||Hollywood Canteen||Barbara Stanwyck|
|1944||Double Indemnity||Phyllis Dietrichson|
|1945||Christmas in Connecticut||Elizabeth Lane|
|1946||The Strange Love of Martha Ivers||Martha Ivers|
|1946||The Bride Wore Boots||Sally Warren|
|1946||My Reputation||Jessica Drummond|
|1947||Cry Wolf||Sandra Marshall|
|1947||The Other Love||Karen Duncan|
|1947||The Two Mrs. Carrolls||Sally Morton Carroll|
|1948||Sorry - Wrong Number||Leona Stevenson|
|1948||B.F.'s Daughter||Pauline 'Polly' Fulton Brett|
|1949||East Side - West Side||Jessie Bourne|
|1949||The Lady Gambles||Joan Boothe|
|1950||To Please a Lady||Regina Forbes|
|1950||The Furies||Vance Jeffords|
|1950||No Man of Her Own||Helen Ferguson / Patrice Harkness|
|1950||The File on Thelma Jordon||Thelma Jordon|
|1951||The Man with a Cloak||Lorna Bounty|
|1952||Clash by Night||Mae Doyle D'Amato|
|1953||Blowing Wild||Marina Conway|
|1953||All I Desire||Naomi Murdoch|
|1954||Cattle Queen of Montana||Sierra Nevada Jones|
|1954||Witness to Murder||Cheryl Draper|
|1954||Executive Suite||Julia O. Tredway|
|1955||Escape to Burma||Gwen Moore|
|1955||The Violent Men||Martha Wilkison|
|1956||Irene Frazier Äì Sudden Silence||The Ford Television Theatre (TV series) Irene Frazier|
|1956||These Wilder Years||Ann Dempster|
|1956||The Maverick Queen||Kit Banion|
|1956||There's Always Tomorrow||Norma|
|1957||Forty Guns||Jessica Drummond|
|1957||Trooper Hook||Cora Sutliff|
|1957||Crime of Passion||Kathy Ferguson Doyle|
|1958||Trail to Nowhere||Zane Grey Theater (TV series) Julie Holman|
|1958||The Freighter||Zane Grey Theater (TV series)Belle Garrison|
|1958||Sudden Silence||Decision (TV series) Irene Frazier|
|1958||Three Dark Years||Goodyear Theatre (TV series) Midge Varney|
|1958||Three Years Dark||Alcoa Theatre (TV series) Midge Varney|
|1959||The Lone Woman||Zane Grey Theater (TV series)Leona Butler|
|1959||Hang the Heart High||Zane Grey Theater (TV series) Regan Moore|
|1960||The Barbara Stanwyck Show (TV series - 37 episodes)|
|1961||The Maud Frazer Story||Wagon Train (TV series) Maud Frazer|
|1961||Star Witness:The Lili Parrish Story||G.E. True Theater (TV series)Lili Parrish|
|1962||The Caroline Casteel Story||Wagon Train (TV series) Caroline Casteel|
|1962||Elegy||The Untouchables (TV series) Lt Agatha Stewart|
|1962||Special Assignment||The Dick Powell Theatre (TV series)Irene Phillips|
|1962||Walk on the Wild Side||Jo Courtney|
|1962||The Captain's Wife||Rawhide (TV series) Nora Holloway (credited as Miss Barbara Stanwyck)|
|1963||The Molly Kincaid Story||Wagon Train (TV series) Kate Crawley|
|1963||Search for a Dead Man||The Untouchables (TV series) Lt. Agatha Stewart|
|1964||The Night Walker||Irene Trent|
|1964||The Kate Crawley Story||Wagon Train (TV series) Kate Crawley|
|1964||Calhoun: County Agent||(TV movie) Abby Rayner|
|1965-1969||The Big Valley - 112 episodes||(TV series) Victoria Barkley|
|1970||The House That Would Not Die||(TV movie) Ruth Bennett|
|1971||A Taste of Evil||(TV movie) Miriam Jennings|
|1973||The Letters||(TV movie) Geraldine Parkington|
|1980||Toni's Boys||Charlie's Angels (TV series) (1980) Toni|
|1983||The Thorn Birds (TV mini-series) Part 4||Mary Carson|
|1983||The Thorn Birds (TV mini-series) Part 3 (||Mary Carson|
|1983||The Thorn Birds (TV mini-series) Part 2||Mary Carson|
|1983||The Thorn Birds (TV mini-series) Part 1||Mary Carson|
|1985||The Celebration||The Colbys (TV series) (20 November 1985) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1985||Conspiracy of Silence||The Colbys (TV series) (27 November 1985) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1985||Moment of Truth||The Colbys (TV series) (28 November 1985) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1985||The Family Album||The Colbys (TV series) (5 December 1985) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1985||Shadow of the Past||The Colbys (TV series) (12 December 1985) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1985||A House Divided||The Colbys (TV series) (19 December 1985) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1985||The Reunion||The Colbys (TV series) (26 December 1985) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1985||The Californians||Dynasty (TV series) (9 October 1985) - Constance Colby Patterson|
|1985||The Man||Dynasty (TV series) (16 October 1985) - Constance Colby Patterson|
|1985||The Titans||Dynasty(TV series) (13 November 1985) - Constance Colby Patterson|
|1986||Fallen Idol||The Colbys (TV series) (2 January 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||The Letter||The Colbys (TV series) (9 January 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||The Turning Point||The Colbys (TV series) (16 January 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||Thursday's Child||The Colbys (TV series) (30 January 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||The Pact||The Colbys (TV series) (6 February 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||Fallon's Choice||The Colbys (TV series) (13 February 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||The Trial||The Colbys (TV series) (20 February 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||Burden of Proof||The Colbys (TV series) (27 February 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||My Father's House||The Colbys (TV series) (6 March 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||The Outcast||The Colbys (TV series) (13 March 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||The Wedding||The Colbys (TV series) (20 March 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||The Honeymoon||The Colbys (TV series) (27 March 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||Double Jeopardy||The Colbys (TV series) (10 April 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||A Family Affair||The Colbys (TV series) (17 April 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||The Reckoning||The Colbys (TV series) (1 May 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||Anniversary Waltz||The Colbys (TV series) (15 May 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
|1986||Checkmate||The Colbys (TV series) (22 May 1986) - Constance 'Conny' Colby Patterson|
Interns Can't Take Money
The Great Man's Lady
The Bride Wore Boots
The Lady Gambles
All I Desire
There's Always Tomorrow
Set also includes original promo trailers.
March 22, 2009:
There is a new Stanwyck 256-page bio coming out in April 2009 by serial celebrity bio-writer Jane Ellen Wayne. Here's the publisher's brief promoting the book:
"Barbara Stanwyck swore like a sailor, chain smoked and was an alcoholic. And yet, she was one of Hollywood's biggest stars, indeed, number eleven on the American Film Institute's 100 Years of Greatest Screen Legends, and appeared in classic films such as Double Indemnity and Meet John Doe. In this fascinating biography, we follow the orphan who, by sheer determination, became a dancer in Hollywood and began her rise to the top. She auditioned for Frank Capra who called her a 'porcupine' and had an affair with her but after, made her a star. Barbara's first marriage was to comic Frank Fay, they adopted a son whom she later abandoned in the most extraordinary way. Her second husband was Robert Taylor, to whom she vowed revenge after their break-up for his affairs with Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. Until the day she died, she collected 15 per cent of his substantial earnings. Yet on her own deathbed, she swore he was by her bedside waiting for her. Full of tragedy, ambition, success and jealousy, Hollywood stars and stories that include new revelations of affairs with both leading actors and actresses, as well as details of her films, this is a must for Barbara fans and film fans alike. Jane Ellen Wayne, who was employed by The National Broadcasting Company for fifteen years, is the author of numerous biographies of Hollywood stars that include Robert Taylor, Lana Turner, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe. Her most recent are The Golden Girls of MGM and The Golden Guys of MGM. She is listed in Who's Who of Women in the World and Contemporary Authors. Ms. Wayne resides in New York City.
About the Author: Jane Ellen Wayne, who was employed by The National Broadcasting Company for fifteen years, is the author of numerous biographies of Hollywood stars that include Robert Taylor, Lana Turner, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe. Her most recent are The Golden Girls of MGM and The Golden Guys of MGM. She is listed in Who's Who of Women in the World and Contemporary Authors. Ms. Wayne resides in New York City."
The book may be a simple update of Wayne's 1986 book on Stanwyck which has been bitterly attacked by Stanwyck fans since it's publication. For example these words from the amazon.com site referring to the 1986 book:
"Nancy Tannenbaum (Texas): Too bad you don't have a rating scale which includes a minus category. This pile of claptrap is clearly the work of a strange and bitter woman who hates Barbara Stanwyck because this "author" (a misnomer if ever one existed) is OBSESSED with [ex-husband] Robert Taylor."
With this kind of pre-publicity, I think Stanwyck fans are going to keep waiting for the long-time-coming Victoria Wilson volume "Barbara Stanwyck: Her Life, Her Work, Her Hollywood, Across an American Century" coming from publishers Simon & Schuster. Information varies about how long this project has been in the works – some say up to twenty years, others less. I first read about this volume's progress in 2001.
In the meantime, the Jane Ellen Wayne book is available from amazon.co:
Sept 23, 2008:
I guess this isn't exactly gossip since its being put out by the Associated Press to promote Robert Wagner's new autobiography 'Pieces of My Heart':
"...His love affair with Barbara Stanwyck, ...Wagner writes of his four-year romance with the star of such classics as "Stella Dallas" and "Double Indemnity."
They met on the set of "Titanic," released in 1953, when he was 22 and she 45 and divorced from actor Robert Taylor.
The press knew nothing about their relationship and neither did most of Hollywood, except for such friends as Nancy Sinatra, the first wife of Frank Sinatra; and Spencer Tracy, whose bond with Katharine Hepburn was the ultimate show business secret.
"I would say she gave me self-esteem," writes the actor whose successful TV series included "It Takes a Thief" and "Hart to Hart," but the relationship didn't hold. They were both too busy working and the age difference was too great. Stanwyck eventually broke it off.
"I would always have been Mr. Stanwyck," Wagner, now 78, writes, "and we both knew it.
Sept 15, 2008:
Check out "Highhurdler's" analysis of the ethics in the Barbara Stanwyck 1954 film Executive Suite.
September 14, 2008:
TCM film schedule of upcoming Stanwyck movies:
Sept 30, 2008 Tuesday 9:45 PM
Meet John Doe (1941)
A reporter (Stanwyck) about to be laid-off invents a story about a common American "everyman" who pledges to commit suicide to protest the state of civilization. The resulting publicity forces the newspaper to hire an out-of-work ball player to pretend to be the fraudulent 'John Doe' who becomes a national hero and pawn of a corrupt political 3rd party. Cast: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold. Dir: Frank Capra. BW-122 mins, TV-G, CC, DVS
A extensive page about Meet John Doe
October 3, 2008 Friday 6:15 PM
The File On Thelma Jordon (1950)
A woman seduces a District Attorney and pulls him into a web of theft and murder. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey, Paul Kelly. Dir: Robert Siodmak. BW-100 mins, TV-PG
October 13, 2008 Monday 7:15 AM
A frustrated librarian goes on an ocean voyage to combat her lonely life, only to fall into a lifelong affair with a married politician. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Adolphe Menjou, Ralph Bellamy. Dir: Frank Capra. BW-85 mins, TV-G
An extensive page with information on the Capra / Stanwyck movie Forbidden
October 15, 2008 Wednesday 10:00 PM
The Mad Miss Manton (1938)
A daffy socialite gets her friends mixed up in a murder investigation. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Sam Levene. Dir: Leigh Jason. BW-80 mins, TV-G, CC
August 2008: TCM has a month-long Barbara Stanwyck Film Festival
[Below] Screen shot of the New Yorker magazine article on
Stanwyck in regards to her 100 year centennial in 2007.
An excerpt from the New Yorker article on Stanwyck by Anthony Lane:
"Besides the hundred years since Stanwyck’s birth, other statistics demand attention. There are the eighty-three films she made for the big screen. There are the hundred and five episodes, starting in 1965, of the TV series “The Big Valley” in which she starred as Victoria Barkley, thus reinforcing the moral of a lifetime: Don’t mess with the matriarch. And there are the four Oscar nominations, none of them crowned with a win, a scandal for which the Academy atoned in 1982 by bestowing an honorary award. Her appearance that night, sequined and immaculate, suggested that age was simply too awed to wither her, just as America’s love for her was always spiced with a pinch of fear. She built and buffed a screen persona whose unending task was to face down the schemings of weak men, to get a laugh for doing so, and to vent no more pity on the plight of others than she did on her own. Her wars with the world did not go unrewarded. Hence the most vital of all her statistics: in 1944, Stanwyck earned four hundred thousand dollars, making her the highest-paid woman in America."
Modern Times websites Barbara Stanwyck ("Ball of Fire") bio has been around for nearly a decade, I think, but it is still one of the very best articles on her.
Morlock "jeff" has a running commentary at MovieMorlocks on a few of the Stanwyck films TCM broadcast on their day-long Stanwyck Marathon in August 2008. For example this is what he has about The BItter Tea of General Yen:
"...a very offbeat Pre-Code for Stanwyck. An interracial love story between a missionary and a Chinese warlord, it was a rather taboo topic for its era and director Frank Capra brings out the exotic sexuality of the pairing. Once you get used to the fact that a non-Chinese actor (Nils Asther in heavy Fu Manchu-like makeup) is playing General Yen, the stereotyped depiction, Hollywood style, of Asian culture gives way to an intriguing and unusual love story. "
For a complete page on the Stanwyck / Frank Capra Bitter Tea of General YenOriginal Page 2006, updated Dec 2012