|Subject: Archive: January 20, 1990 ~ Barbara Stanwyck dies at 82
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Date Posted: Sunday, January 20, 07:28:49am
AWARD-WINNING ACTRESS BARBARA STANWYCK DIES
Barbara Stanwyck, 82, an actress whose more than 80 films included the classic "Double Indemnity," in which she played a sultry blonde tramp who tried to kill her husband, and who later played the strongly moral matriarch of television's popular "The Big Valley," died of congestive heart failure Jan. 20 at a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif.
In a career that included work in the chorus line, vaudeville, movies and television, she won three Emmys and an honorary Oscar. She was known for her luminous blue eyes, distinctive voice, panther-like walk and ability to project the image of an immensely strong yet sensitve woman.
Miss Stanwyck's film career lasted from 1927 to 1964 and included four movies for which she received Academy Award nominations. She was nominated for the 1937 movie "Stella Dallas," for "Ball of Fire" in 1942 in which she starred with Gary Cooper, "Double Indemnity" with Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson in 1944 and "Sorry, Wrong Number" with Burt Lancaster in 1948. Though she did not win the award for those films, she was the recipient of a special 1982 Oscar for the body of her work.
Her film co-stars included Hollywood's greatest leading men. She played opposite Henry Fonda in "The Lady Eve," James Cagney in "These Wilder Years," Clark Gable in "To Please a Lady," Errol Flynn in "Cry Wolf," Humphrey Bogart in "The Two Mrs. Carrolls," and Gary Cooper in "Meet John Doe."
She showed more than a little versatility in her ability to act with a wide range of men. She is still remembered for an intensely passionate kiss she gave Ronald Reagan in "Cattle Queen of Montana," and later received favorable reviews when teamed with Elvis Presley in "Roustabout."
Miss Stanwyck became one of the first movie stars to appear on television, gaining greater fame for herself than she got from film. She appeared on "The Jack Benny Show" in 1952, and was a guest star in several Westerns. "The Barbara Stanwyck Show" ran from September 1960 to September 1961. She hosted the program of half-hour plays and appeared in most episodes.
Her Western series, "The Big Valley," which was set in the 1870s, ran from September 1965 to May 1969. Miss Stanwyck played Victoria Barkley, queen of the regal Barkley ranch and iron-willed mother of Jarrod, Nick, Heath and Audra. She also appeared on "General Electric Theater" during its eight-year run and was in "The Colbys" for one season in 1986.
She won Emmys in 1961 for "The Barbara Stanwyck Show," in 1966 for "The Big Valley" and in 1983 for the "Thorn Birds" miniseries. The American Film Institute gave her its Life Achievement Award in 1987.
Miss Stanwyck was born Ruby Stevens in Brooklyn, N.Y. The youngest of five children, she was orphaned at the age of 4. She was brought up mostly by her sister, Millie, who was a chorus girl. When her sister was on the road, Miss Stanwyck boarded with Brooklyn families.
"Let's just say I had a terrible childhood. Let's just say that 'poor' is something I can understand," she once recalled.
By the time she was 15, she was dancing in shows in New York cabarets and with the Ziegfeld Follies. She met playwright Willard Mack and was cast in the chorus of a play, "The Noose." She was promoted to a leading role and it was at that point she got a new name. Mack decided Ruby Stevens wasn't a star's name, glanced at a playbill for "Jane Stanwyck in 'Barbara Fritchie' " and dubbed her Barbara Stanwyck.
Her first screen role was a small part in the silent film "Broadway Nights," shot in New York City. She went to Hollywood and appeared in the silent picture "The Locked Door" in 1928, and the following year appeared in the movie "Mexicali Rose." Neither was a success.
But the legendary film director Frank Capra sought her out for "Ladies of Leisure." In that film, she portrayed a somewhat immoral artist's model who ends up falling in love with a rich young artist.
Capra, she later said, taught her about using her eyes. "These are the greatest tools in film," she said in an interview, pointing at her own eyes. "It's nice to say very good dialogue, if you can get it. But great movie acting . . . watch the eyes."
"Ladies of Leisure" was the first of five films she appeared in for Capra. She also became a favorite of such directors as Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, King Vidor and John Ford. She starred in "Annie Oakley" under the direction of George Stevens, and "Clash By Night" for Fritz Lang. Cecil B. DeMille wrote in his "Autobiography": "I have never worked with an actress who was more cooperative, less temperamental and a better workman."
In the early 1940s she reached a career peak with films such as "The Lady Eve," "Meet John Doe," and "Double Indemnity." In 1944, her name headed a Bureau of Internal Revenue list of the highest salaried women in the United States. Another "strong woman" of Hollywood, Bette Davis, was second.
Miss Stanwyck, called "Missy" on the set, had a reputation as a true professional. If she never gained super-stardom, she also was said never to have given a really bad performance. Her quest for work often led her to appear in films in which she was the only thing worth watching.
She not only displayed talent in a wide range of roles, she also was said to be one of the easiest stars for directors and crews to work with. Both Robert Preston and William Holden praised her for her coaching when they were breaking into the acting business. Stage crews loved working with her and were known to present her with cakes and awards at the end of shootings.
Her last really successful movie was "Executive Suite" in 1954. She starred opposite Laurence Harvey in 1962 in the film of Nelson Algren's novel "A Walk on the Wild Side," in which she played a lesbian madam.
In her later years, Miss Stanwyck suffered a ruptured kidney that was removed in 1971. In 1981, a robber woke her one night, hit her on the head and shoved her in a closet while stealing $5,000 worth of jewelry. A 1985 fire caused $1.5 million damage to her home in Beverly Hills, where she had lived for many years.
Miss Stanwyck married vaudeville comedian Frank Fay in 1928. They divorced in 1935. She married Robert Taylor in 1939 and divorced him in 1951. In 1964, she appeared in her last film, "The Night Walker," which co-starred Taylor.
She leaves no immediate survivors.
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