"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!"
Born Ruby Stevens in 1907 in Brooklyn, New York into a life filled with drama, tragedy, poverty, and deep sadness. Little Ruby lost her mother when she was pushed off a moving streetcar while pregnant. Sometime later he father left and she was in and out of foster homes. By the age of fourteen she dropped out of school and began working in a store. Before her sixteen birthday she auditioned for a spot in the chorus at the Strand Theatre in Times Square (Manhattan) and landed the job. So at age fifteen Ruby was a Ziegfeld girl!!!The Noose. Mack wanted to hire an authentic chorus girl for the part of a chorus girl in his play and that is where Ruby came in. The play also starred Rex Cherryman with whom she would fall in love with but that ended with Cherryman's untimely death in 1928. Below is a photo of the two of them during the play.
Ruby was asked to change her name at the suggestion of Mack in which she combined her character's first name and the last name of another actress in the play. And that is how Barbara Stanwyck was born. Stanwyck became a huge success on Broadway and by 1928 married one of her co-stars in a play at the time, Frank Fay. After they were married they both moved to Hollywood to pursue their careers.
The Locked Door. Soon after she starred in a Frank Capra film called Ladies of Leisure which really launched her career in Hollywood. By 1944, she was the highest paid woman in America! Many of her film roles included strong characters such as in Stella Dallas (1937) and Double Indemnity (1944).
In 1932, while still married to Fay, they adopted a boy and named him Dion (pictured below). Unfortunately by the 1950's her relationship with her son became strained and she never spoke to him again. He was a troubled by but I have read conflicting reports about why she stopped speaking to him. Some have speculated that Stanwyck and Fay were too busy with their careers and were not available parents to him. I can only imagine with Stanwyck's upbringing how she may have felt trying to be a mother herself. I do believe she enjoyed his presence but perhaps when he became an adult they both did not enjoy each other's company. It happens even with biological children. I have found no other information about him, which is a shame really.
Fay and Stanwyck divorced in 1935 and in 1936 she was paired with the handsome, Robert Taylor in a film called "His Brother's Wife" (1936). They were married in 1939 and stayed married until 1950. I will delve more into this iconic romance in tomorrow's post.
As Stanwyck grew older she may have not been the top billed star of the moment but she was still working well into her late 70's and early 80's. During the 1960's she was one of the main characters of a western show called The Big Valley which also starring Lee Majors and Linda Evans. In 1983, she co-starred in one of my favorite miniseries, Thorn Birds. She won her third Emmy for her performance as Mary Carson. She also made guest appearances on two huge television shows in the 1980's; Dynasty and The Colbys. He performance in "The Colby's" was to be her last.
In her final years she did a great deal of charity work. In 1981, she was robbed and assaulted in her home. She also lost a great deal in a house fire as well. During the filming of "Thorn Birds", it is speculated that she inhaled a great deal of special effects smoke that may have contributed to her getting bronchitis. She had also been a smoker since the age of nine and didn't stop until four years prior to her passing.
Ruby Stevens~aka Barbara Stanwyck passed away at the age of 82 on January 20th, 1990. She had no funeral and her ashes were scattered in Lone Pine, California.
She was a tough gal who survived personal turmoil and the streets of New York. She worked her way up from being a Ziegfeld Girl to a Broadway star to a iconic film star. She has inspired many actors and actresses throughout the years and her life and her roles have inspired me. I am enjoying learning more about her. I remember when I was a young girl seeing her on t.v. and wondering who she was and thinking what an amazing actress she was. She blew me away every time and as I delve into learning more about her and viewing her films, I am blown away even more.
Barbara Stanwyck was one classy broad!