Stanwyck, Barbara (1907-1990)

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Stanwyck, Barbara (1907-1990)

From her modest beginnings as a Broadway chorus girl named Ruby Stevens, Barbara Stanwyck forged a long and versatile career as one of Hollywood's strongest female stars. Her breakthrough performance occurred in 1930's Ladies of Leisure, directed by Frank Capra, who said her emotionally charged acting could "grab your heart and tear it to pieces." In her earliest roles she epitomized the self-sacrificing woman, culminating in her title part in the 1937 woman's picture, Stella Dallas. The 1940s transformed her into a sexy, ruthless femme fatale. She played the movies' first woman to murder for no reason nobler than avarice in the 1944 seminal film noir, Double Indemnity. Unlike Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, her peers in melodrama, Stanwyck also made an impression as a comedienne in canonical romantic comedies like 1941's Ball of Fire and TheLady Eve. Her image, onscreen and off, as a tough, independent woman overcoming a hardscrabble childhood is her legacy.

—Elizabeth Haas

Further Reading:

DiOrio, Al. Barbara Stanwyck: A Biography. New York, Coward-McCann, 1983.

Madsen, Axel. Stanwyck: A Biography. New York, Harper Collins, 1995.

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Stanwyck, Barbara (1907-1990)

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