A Centennial Tribute to Barbara Stanwyck
I won’t lie to you. When people ask me who my favorite classic actress is, I tell them it’s Missy. I could sit and watch her read from the Windows Users Manual.
What is it about Barbara Stanwyck that, for me, lifts her a notch above her contemporaries? Besides her voice and her face (and her legs), I think it was the fact that she could do anything, from goofy comedy (The Lady Eve) to utter tragedy (Stella Dallas) and everything in between. She was one of the most talented and ahead-of-her-time actresses Hollywood ever produced, and the greatest “tough broad” in classic film — not to mention on TV.
Stanwyck’s life wasn’t very different from many of the characters she played. She started out as an orphan named Ruby Stevens, worked in a factory, and by 1944 had become the highest-paid woman in America. While best known for films like Annie Oakley, Ball of Fire, Double Indemnity, The Lady Eve, and Stella Dallas, and later for her role in TV’s Big Valley, Barbara first made her mark in a series of pre-Code films like Night Nurse and Ladies They Talk About, where she honed her skills and her toughness. (The photo at the top of this page is from that era.) If you haven’t seen any of those early films, be sure to buy or rent them, or watch for them on TV. Talk about rising above your material!
She was also a true professional, with a reputation as a director’s actress. Though nominated for the Best Actress Oscar four times, she never won. Her awards came later in her career, with Emmys and Golden Globes for her TV roles in Big Valley, The Thorn Birds, and The Barbara Stanwyck Show. She was universally beloved by those she worked with.
You can find out more about her awards, her movies, and details about her life in this special tribute, updated this year in celebration of what would have been her 100th birthday.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find Her Movies
Part IV: Photos, Art, and Posters