Barbara Stanwyck (born Ruby Catherine Stevens) was an American actress, model and dancer. A stage, film, and television star, during her 60-year professional career she was known for her strong, realistic screen presence and versatility. She was a favorite of directors, including Cecil B. DeMille, Fritz Lang, and Frank Capra, and made 85 films in 38 years before turning to television. Orphaned at the age of four and partially raised in foster homes, she always worked. One of her directors, Jacques Tourneur, said of her, "She only lives for two things, and both of them are work." She made her debut on stage in the chorus as a Ziegfeld girl in 1923, at age 16, and within a few years was acting in plays. Her first lead role, which was in the hit Burlesque (1927), established her as a Broadway star. In 1929, she began acting in talking pictures. Frank Capra chose her for his romantic drama Ladies of Leisure (1930). This led to additional leading roles which raised her profile, such as Night Nurse (1931), Baby Face (1933), and the controversial The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933). In 1937, she played the title role in Stella Dallas for which she earned her first Academy Award nomination for best actress. In 1939, she starred in Union Pacific, which won the first Palme d'Or awarded at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1941, she starred in two screwball comedies: Ball of Fire with Gary Cooper, and The Lady Eve with Henry Fonda. She received her second Academy Award nomination for Ball of Fire, and in the decades since its release The Lady Eve has come to be regarded as a comedic classic, with Stanwyck's performance called one of the best in American comedy. Other successful films during this era of her career are Meet John Doe (1940) and You Belong to Me (1941), reteaming her with Cooper and Fonda, respectively. By 1944, Stanwyck had become the highest-paid actress in the United States. She starred with Fred MacMurray in the seminal film noir Double Indemnity (1944), playing the wife who persuades an insurance salesman to kill her husband, for which she received her third Oscar nomination. In 1945, she starred as a homemaker columnist in the hit romantic comedy Christmas in Connecticut. The next year, she portrayed the title tragic femme fatale in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. She garnered her fourth Oscar nomination for her performance as an invalid wife in the noir-thriller Sorry, Wrong Number (1948). Stanwyck’s film career declined by the start of the 1950s; despite having a fair number of leading and major supporting roles in that decade, the most successful being Executive Suite (1954), the films were not as well received as those earlier in her career. She transitioned to television by the 1960s, where she won three Emmy Awards – for The Barbara Stanwyck Show (1961), the western series The Big Valley (1966), and the miniseries The Thorn Birds (1983). She received an Honorary Oscar in 1982, the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1986 and several other honorary lifetime awards. She was ranked as the 11th greatest female star of classic American cinema by the American Film Institute.
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