Barbara Stanwyck’s effortless combination of tough, brassy and bold characters who embodied sultry, beguiling and sensitive spirits made her a dominant presence during her 60-year acting career.
Robert Taylor’s dashing good looks and charming manner earned him star billing as one of MGM’s leading men and the designation by Time magazine as “the most admired matinee idol since the late Rudolph Valentino.”
Together, the screen legends were a volatile mixture of sex, power and celebrity during Hollywood’s heyday in the 1940s.
Stanwyck, who lived in Northridge, and Taylor, who owned an alfalfa ranch in Chatsworth, were often spotted exchanging steamy glances over milkshakes at Kent’s Pharmacy on Reseda Boulevard in Northridge.
The couple starred in “His Brother’s Wife” (1936) and “This Is My Affair” (1937) before marrying in 1939 and moving to Stanwyck’s thoroughbred horse ranch at Reseda Boulevard and Devonshire Street in Northridge. Following their divorce in 1952, they reunited on screen for the film “The Night Walker” (1965).
For Taylor, the threat of communist attack was real. He was an informer during the communist witch hunt in Hollywood and in hearings before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947 named names of entertainment industry figures rumored to be communists.
Despite the passage of time, Taylor’s testimony remains a dark moment in Hollywood history. Spurred by a petition drive by 50 screenwriters and producers in 1990, the actor’s name was stripped from a building on the Lorimar Studio lot in Culver City and replaced with that of late film director George Cukor.
Taylor, who married German-born actress Ursula Thiess in 1954, died in 1969.
Stanwyck wed vaudevillian Frank Fay in 1928 and they adopted a son, Anthony Dion Fay. The couple divorced in 1935.
Stanwyck’s career spanned Broadway chorus lines, vaudeville, movies and television. She won three Emmys and an honorary Oscar. She appeared in 88 films, most notably “Stella Dallas” and “Double Indemnity.” On TV, she was best known for her roles in “The Big Valley,” “The Colbys” and the miniseries “The Thorn Birds.”
Stanwyck died of heart failure in 1990. She was 82.