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Barbara Stanwyck (July 16, 1907 - January 20, 1990) was an American actress of film, stage, and screen .
Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Catherine Stevens in New York City to Catherine Ann McPhee, a Canadian immigrant from Nova Scotia, and Byron E. Stevens, an American. She was raised in Brooklyn, New York. When she was two, her mother, who was pregnant at the time, died after being pushed off a moving trolley by a drunk. By age four, her father had abandoned the family. She was raised in foster homes and by an elder sister, but began working at age 13, and was a fashion model and Ziegfeld Girl by the age of 15.
In 1926, Stanwyck began performing at the Hudson Theatre in the drama The Noose, which became one of the biggest hit plays of the season. She co-starred with actors Rex Cherryman and Wilfred Lucas. Cherryman and Stanwyck began a romantic relationship. The relationship was cut short however, when in 1928, Cherryman died at the age of 30 of septic poisoning while vacationing in Le Havre, France. Her performance in The Noose earned rave reviews, and she was summoned by film producer Bob Kane to make a screen test for his upcoming 1927 silent film Broadway Nights where she won a minor part of a fan dancer after losing out the lead role, because she couldn't cry during the screen test. This marked Stanwyck's first film appearance.
In 1926, a friend introduced Stanwyck (then known under her original name) to Willard Mack, who was casting his play The Noose. Asked to audition, she was hired on the spot. Willard thought a great deal of the actress and believed that to change her image, she needed a first class name, one that would stand out. He happened to notice a playbill for a play then running called Barbara Frietchie in which an actress named Jane Stanwyck appeared. He used this to come up with "Barbara Stanwyck" as Ruby's new stage name. She was an instant hit and he even re-wrote the script to give her a bigger part.
Stanwyck starred in almost a hundred films during her career and received four nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Stella Dallas (1937), Ball of Fire (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948). In 1954 she appeared alongside Ronald Reagan in the western Cattle Queen of Montana. She received an Academy Honorary Award "for superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting" in 1982.
When Stanwyck's film career declined in 1957, she moved to television. Her 1961-1962 series The Barbara Stanwyck Show was not a ratings success but earned the star her first Emmy Award. The 1965-1969 western series The Big Valley made her one of the most popular actresses on television, winning her another Emmy. Twenty years later, she earned her third Emmy for The Thorn Birds. Her last starring role was in 1985, on the TV series The Colbys alongside Charlton Heston, Stephanie Beacham and Katharine Ross.
William Holden always credited her with saving his career when they costarred together in Golden Boy. They remained lifelong friends and he paid tribute to her at the 1977 Academy Awards. In 1977, Stanwyck and Holden were presenting the Best Sound Oscar. Holden paused to pay a special tribute to Stanwyck.
The Waltons producer, Earl Hamner Jr., wanted Stanwyck for the lead role of Angela Channing on the successful 1980s melodrama, Falcon Crest, which was a spin-off of The Vintage Years, but she turned it down.
Stanwyck has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1751 Vine Street.
In 1973, she was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
In 1987 the American Film Institute awarded her a televised AFI Life Achievement Award.
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