Actress. She was a was a four time Academy Award-nominated motion picture actress whose career spanned from the 1920s beyond the 1980s, and was a forerunner of a long line of actors and singers born in Brooklyn, New York City, New York which at the time had many influencing live performance theatres and cultural centers which drew many with show business aspirations. Born Ruby Catherine Stevens, her childhood in Brooklyn was dismal. Her mother would be killed in a trolley accident when she was three and her father would simply vanish a few weeks after her mother's death while traveling to Panama to work on the canal construction. The family, Ruby the youngest, totaled five and would be split up. She and her brother Malcom were relegated to different foster families (Malcom would go on to Hollywood and also forge a successful show business career). At an early age, her older sister supported both children financially from earnings as a chorus girl while taking Ruby on the road three summers in a row, which sparked her interest in a show business career. Barely enrolled at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, she would be forced to quit and find work to support herself. A typing job with the Remick Music Company, with the help of the manager, landed her a job at a nightclub where she was taught to chorus dance. Bit parts led to Broadway Theater parts, with a debut in "The Noose." She became a major stage star in a subsequent show, "Burlesque" which brought her interest in Hollywood. She would go on to have a career that included over ninety motion pictures, four of which are considered many as classic films - "Stella Dallas" (Oscar nominated 1937), "Balls of Fire" (Oscar nominated 1941), "Double Indemnity" (Oscar nominated 1944), and "Sorry, Wrong Number" (Oscar nominated 1948). She turned to television in the mid-1950s when her movie career stared to wane, and her "The Barbara Stanwyck Show" consisted of thirty segments of drama and garnered her an Emmy for "Outstanding Actress". From 1965 to 1969, she played the matriarch of a family of ranchers in "The Big Valley" for which she received two more Emmys during the series and the Screen Actors Guild Award while named Photoplay's "Most Popular Female Star." Even though her health was impaired by emphysema, she played the passionate matriarch in the television 1983 miniseries "The Thorn Birds", where her performance brought yet another Emmy. In 1982, the Academy presented her an Honorary Oscar for superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting. Towards the end of the 1980s she had health complications, vision loss and spinal deterioration, but continued to perform, was presented the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986. Her final television appearance was in "The Colbys," a spin-off from the nighttime soap opera "Dynasty", and she died at 82 from congestive heart failure complicated by pneumonia and emphysema at St. John's Hospital, Santa Monica. She did not want a funeral and was directly cremated with her ashes scattered over Lone Pine, California the location where many of her movies and television scenes were filmed. She was the recipient of a Lincoln Center Life Achievement Award in 1983 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was also inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1973.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield