Hollywood's Hard-Bitten, Tough-Talking Barbara Stanwyck Dies
Jan. 22, 1990
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Barbara Stanwyck, who began show business as a Ziegfeld Follies dancer and went on to play some of the toughest ladies in film and TV, was remembered by colleagues Sunday as an uncompromising professional.
Miss Stanwyck died Saturday of congestive heart failure at St. John's Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica, said agent Larry Kleno. She was 82.
Her 60-plus years in entertainment spanned the chorus line, vaudeville stage, silents, talkies and television. She plotted murder with Fred MacMurray in ''Double Indemnity,'' played a horrified victim in ''Sorry Wrong Number'' and ran the ranch with an iron hand in the series ''The Big Valley.''
She earned three Emmys, four Academy Award nominations and an honorary Oscar for her work in more than 80 films.
''I realize it's no longer a fashionable phrase, but she was a great broad, in all the meaning of the word, and she would be comfortable with that phrase,'' said Charlton Heston, who starred with Stanwyck in the television series, ''The Colbys.''
Colleagues praised Miss Stanwyck for her no-nonsense attitude toward her craft.
Heston recalled how Miss Stanwyck ''reduced one actress to tears because she was 15 minutes late from lunch. She could be hell on wheels.''
Miss Stanwyck's only Oscar was an honorary statuette presented in 1982 for the body of her work. The American Film Institute gave her its most prestigious honor, the Life Achievement Award, in 1987.
''She was just the most wonderful (actress) in the whole business, and I worked with a lot of them,'' said MacMurray.
''Everyone in this industry looked up to her as such a perfectionist,'' said actress Jane Wyman, a longtime friend. ''Her honesty in everything she did came through on the screen, but she never took credit for it. Her ego was never first. It was always her work.''
''She was a wonderful human being and the industry lost something very great when it lost her,'' said actress Dorothy Lamour.
Miss Stanwyck, she said, ''was Hollywood.''
Miss Stanwyck was nominated for an Oscar for her performances in ''Stella Dallas'' with John Boles in 1937, ''Ball of Fire'' with Gary Cooper in 1942, ''Double Indemnity'' with MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson in 1944, and ''Sorry Wrong Number'' with Burt Lancaster in 1948.
Her co-stars were Hollywood's top leading men: Henry Fonda in ''The Lady Eve,'' James Cagney in ''These Wilder Years,'' Clark Gable in ''To Please a Lady,'' Errol Flynn in ''Cry Wolf,'' and Humphrey Bogart in ''The Two Mrs. Carrolls.''
She kissed Ronald Reagan passionately in ''Cattle Queen of Montana'' and was teamed with Elvis Presley in ''Roustabout.''
Her television career was also distinguished.
''The Barbara Stanwyck Show'' ran from September 1960 to September 1961. She was host of the program of half-hour plays and appeared in most episodes.
''The Big Valley'' ran from September 1965 to May 1969. Miss Stanwyck played Victoria Barkley, matriarch of the Barkley ranch and strong-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.
Miss Stanwyck garnered Emmys for ''The Barbara Stanwyck Show'' in 1961, ''The Big Valley'' in 1966 and the miniseries ''The Thorn Birds'' in 1983.
The youngest of five children, Miss Stanwyck was born Ruby Stevens on July 16, 1907, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was orphaned at age 4. She was raised by an older sister, Millie, a chorus girl who boarded her with Brooklyn families when she was on the road.
By the time she was 15 she was a floor show dancer in New York cabarets and with the Ziegfeld Follies. She was eventually introduced to playwright Willard Mack and was cast in the chorus of a play, ''The Noose.'' She was promoted to a leading role and rechristened Barbara Stanwyck by Mack after he glanced at a playbill that read ''Jane Stanwyck in Barbara Fritchie.''
Miss Stanwyck had a small part in a silent picture, ''The Locked Door,'' in 1927. After several screen tests she went to Hollywood and director Frank Capra sought her out for ''Ladies of Leisure.''
She married vaudeville comedian Frank Fay in 1928 and they adopted a son, Anthony Dion Fay. They divorced in 1935. She married Robert Taylor in 1939 and divorced him in 1951.
Miss Stanwyck attributed her get-to-work attitude to the influence of her early years in vaudeville and on the stage.
''When the curtain went up at 2:30 p.m. for a Wednesday matinee, that meant you had to be there ready to perform at 2:30 - not 2:45 or 3 p.m.,'' she told an interviewer in 1957.
Even then, she was worried about the acting tradition.
''Where can a kid learn timing nowadays? When I started, there were stock companies, vaudeville and burlesque. It was rough and tumble but it was a great school.''