Today, Barbara Stanwyck is remembered as one of the golden-era actresses. Many of her films, such as Meet John Doe, Double Indemnity, and Ball of Fire are considered classics. Although most of her films are dramatic or comedic roles, her favorite genre was westerns, which culminated in her TV show The Big Valley. An interesting fact that many people don't know is that she loved to do her own stunts. Even when she was in her 60s, she still insisted on doing many of them herself.
Linda Evans (Co-Star in The Big Valley, 1965-68) witnessed it first hand. "Barbara absolutely loved doing stunts. When she would get a script, she would look for the action, and if she'd be doing some stunts, she was just in heaven . . . Once, they [the producers of The Big Valley] put the two of us in a burning house. We're all tied up, they're setting everything on fire, and it's so hot, and I'm scared to death, and I look at her and she's just loving it. She said, 'Oh, this is great!'
Here is a film clip from "Forty Guns" (1957), in which Barbara Stanwyck gets dragged by her horse during a tornado. The stunt lady refused to do the shot, at which point Stanwyck declared that she would do it herself. She was 49 years old at the time and walked away from the scene with only minor cuts and bruises.
Barbara Stanwyck was well thought of by her directors, co-stars, and crew members. Director Frank Capra (It's a Wonderful Life) loved the emotion that she put into her roles, but realized that she gave her best on the first take. After realizing this, he would rehearse the other actors , only bringing Barbara Stanwyck in when they were ready to film the scene. Capra said that, with Stanwyck, one take was plenty. She never missed a line.
Famed director Cecil B. DeMille (The Biggest Show on Earth) described her better than anyone else. “I am sometimes asked who is my favourite actress, among those I have directed. I always dodge the question by explaining that I have to continue living in Hollywood.
But if the tortures of the inquisition were applied and an answer extracted from me, I would have to say that I have never worked with an actress who was more co-operative, less temperamental, and a better workman, to use my term of highest compliment, than Barbara Stanwyck.
I have directed, and enjoyed working with, many fine actresses, some of whom are also good workmen; but when I count over those of whom my memories are unmarred by any unpleasant recollection of friction on the set or unwillingness to do whatever the role required or squalls of temperament or temper, Barbara’s name is the first that comes to mind, as one of whom a director can always count to do her work with all her heart.”