Barbara Stanwyck is almost unrecognizable in these rare photos from her earliest films
She made her screen debut all the way back in the 1920s!
After losing both her parents before the age of five, Ruby Stevens and her siblings had to fend for themselves in early 1900s Brooklyn. She worked a series of odd jobs as a teenager but always had dreams of entering showbusiness.
At 19, Ruby won a small part in the Broadway show The Noose, which premiered in 1926. A year later she earned her first lead role in the play Burlesque and ditched her boring given name, changing it to something more sophisticated and glamorous — Barbara Stanwyck.
It was an appropriate change for an actor who was about to become one of the most famous faces of Hollywood’s noir era. Of course, Stanwyck’s career didn’t end after the 1940s. She became a favorite TV guest star before landing her iconic role as matriarch and ranch owner Victoria Barkley on The Big Valley. She also almost had her own version of Charlie’s Angels called Toni’s Boys.
While classic TV fans know her later work and cinema buffs recognize Stanwyck from her noir roles of the 1940s, the very beginnings of her career are rarely seen. She looks quite different in her earliest roles from the 1920s.
We’ve dug up publicity photos from her very first gigs on stage and on-set shots from her early films. Though not quite the scheming femme fatale she would later become famous for, it’s easy to see in these photos that stardom is not far away.