Name at birth: Ruby Stevens
Barbara Stanwyck left the vaudeville stage for the movies in the late 1920s, but her career didn't take off until the '30s, thanks in part to director Frank Capra. Known as a hard-working professional, Barbara Stanwyck played a variety of roles in comedy and dramas, and by the end of the 1930s she was a reliable leading lady. Her characters were usually tough, smart and resolute, giving the impression of having been around the block, as Stanwyck herself had: orphaned at the age of four, she was raised by an older sister and quit school at the age of 13. In the 1940s she was at her career peak, starring in Lady Eve (1941), Meet John Doe (1941), Double Indemnity (1944) and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). She seemed to play mostly matriarchs and cattle baronesses in the '50s, and later had a second career in television, with The Barbara Stanwyck Show (1960-61) and The Big Valley (1965-69) and The Thorn Birds (1983). Barbara Stanwyck was nominated for an Oscar four times, but never won; she was, however, given an Academy Award in 1981 for Lifetime Achievement.
Barbara Stanwyck was married to actor Frank Fay from 1928-1935, and to actor Robert Taylor from 1951. Both marriages ended in divorce… Actor Robert Wagner revealed in 2008 that he and Barbara Stanwyck had a four-year romance after her divorce from Taylor, beginning when he Wagner was 22 and Stanwyck was 45… She was reportedly given her stage name in 1926 by director William Mack, who was inspired by a theater poster advertising “Jane Stanwyck in Barbara Frietchie.”