For nearly thirty years Stanwyck had an intimate relationship with her publicist Helen Ferguson. During much of that time Stanwyck was married—unhappily—to actor Robert Taylor.
While playing in The Noose, Stanwyck fell in love with her married co-star, Rex Cherryman, who became her fiancée in 1928. Cherryman had become ill early in 1928 and his doctor advised him to take a sea voyage to Paris where he and Stanwyck had arranged to meet. While still at sea, he died of septic poisoning, at the age of 31.
On August 26, 1928, Stanwyck married her Burlesque co-star, Frank Fay. She and Fay later claimed that they disliked each other at first, but became close after the sudden death of Cherryman. After moving to Hollywood, they adopted a son, Dion Anthony "Tony" Fay, on December 5, 1932. The marriage was a troubled one. Fay's successful career on Broadway did not translate to the big screen, whereas Stanwyck achieved Hollywood stardom. Fay engaged in physical confrontations with his young wife, especially when he was inebriated. Some claim that this union was the basis for A Star is Born. The couple divorced on December 30, 1935. Stanwyck won custody of their troubled adoptive son.
Actress Barbara Stanwyck was often cast as a tough woman in a man’s world, always in command and control, whether playing a reporter (Meet John Doe), a criminal manipulator (Double Indemnity, The Lady Eve), or a husbandless rancher (The Big Valley). She played a lesbian in Walk on the Wild Side, and it wasn’t much of a stretch. For nearly thirty years Stanwyck had an intimate relationship with her publicist Helen Ferguson. During much of that time Stanwyck was married—unhappily—to Robert Taylor.
In 1936, while making the film His Brother's Wife (1936), Stanwyck became involved with her co-star, Robert Taylor. Following a whirlwind romance, the couple began living together. Stanwyck was hesitant to remarry after the failure of her first marriage. However, their 1939 marriage was rumored to have been arranged with the help of Taylor's studio MGM, a common practice in Hollywood's golden age. She and Taylor enjoyed time together outdoors during the early years of their marriage, and owned acres of prime West Los Angeles property. Their large ranch and home in the Mandeville Canyon section of Brentwood, Los Angeles is still referred to by the locals as the old "Robert Taylor ranch."
In 1950, Stanwyck and Robert Taylor mutually decided to divorce and she proceeded with the official filing of divorce papers. There have been many rumors regarding the cause of their divorce, but according to several of their friends, they simply grew apart after World War II. Taylor had romantic affairs and Stanwyck was also rumored to have had some affairs, but nothing has been confirmed. After the divorce, they acted together in Stanwyck's last feature film, The Night Walker (1964). Stanwyck never remarried and cited Taylor as the love of her life, according to her friend and costar, Linda Evans. She took his death in 1969 very hard and began a long break from film and television work.
Stanwyck was one of the most well-liked actors in Hollywood and was friends with many of her fellow actors (as well as crew members of her films and TV shows), including Joel McCrea and his wife Frances Dee, George Brent, Robert Preston, Henry Fonda (who had a lifelong crush on her and a rumored affair), James Stewart, Linda Evans, Joan Crawford, Jack Benny and his wife Mary Livingstone, William Holden, Gary Cooper, Fred McMurray, and many others.
Stanwyck had a romantic affair with actor Robert Wagner, whom she met on the set of Titanic (1953). Wagner, who was 22, and Stanwyck, who was 45 at the beginning of the relationship, had a four-year romance, which is described in Wagner's 2008 memoir, Pieces of My Heart. Stanwyck ended the relationship. In the 1950s, Stanwyck also, reportedly, had a one-night-stand with the much younger Farley Granger, which he writes about in his memoir, Include Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway.
Helen Ferguson was an actress and then she became a publicist. She was born in Decatur, Illinois around July 23, 1900 although according to the social security records the year might have been 1892. She died in Clearwater, Florida on March 14, 1977 and she was buried at Forest Lawn, Glendale in California and her Hollywood star is located at 6153 Hollywood Blvd.
For nearly thirty years Helen Ferguson had an intimate relationship with Barbara Stanwyck. During much of that time Stanwyck was married—unhappily—to actor Robert Taylor.
Helen graduated from the Nicholas Senn High School of Chicago, she became a stenographer, attended the Academy of Fine Arts, worked as a newspaper reporter all before becoming a movie actress around 1914. In‘The Temper’ (Eassanay Studio, 1915)Helen was not credited but by 1917 she was working in films full time beginning with Max Wants a Divorce.
The first on screen credit seems to have been in 1917. Vitagraph Studios made a film called ‘The Romance Promoters’ in 1920 in which Helen co-star. By the 1920, she was starring in Fox Films’ Westerns; she went on to make comedies and serials.
Helen was described as a ‘regular girl’ starting in her film career as an extra; she is reported to have appeared in the 1915 production of ‘The Tempter’, Henry B. Walthall’s first picture at Eassanay Studio.
Sam Goldwyn brought Helen Ferguson to New York in 1919 to appear in ‘Going Some.’ Helen went on to work for other East Coast Studios.
‘The End of the Road’ was made in 1919, Helen plays the maid, not a very big part. It is an Army Training film about syphilis directed by Edward H. Griffith.
According to ‘The Blue Book of the Screen’ (1923) “Helen Ferguson drives a car, and is always reading, studying and painting.”
In 1920, Helen Ferguson started making films with William Russell; they worked together for Fox Films in ‘Shod with Fire” and ‘The Challenge of the Law.’ They continued to work together on ‘Desert Blooms’ in 1921; ‘The Crusader’, 1922 and then in 1925 they came together once more to make ‘My Neighbor’s Wife’; that was the year they were married. This was Helen’s first marriage, although they had known each other and Helen told reporters that they had been in love for a long time but they had decided to actually marry rather suddenly. Their romance had started in 1920 when they first worked together. William Russell, his real name was William Lerch had been married to Charlotte Burton in 1919 but the marriage only lasted six months before they divorced. At the time of Helen and Bill’s marriage, she was reported 26 and Bill was 40. The married ceremony took place at Emilie Ferguson, Helen’s mother’s home and was preformed by Dr. Frank Dyer.
They were working at separate studios so were not able to take a honeymoon, but William Russell had a yacht so they could have taken a cruise. In 1925, Bill was with Universal in a film called ‘The Still Alarm’ and at Pathe, Helen was starring in a picture being filmed off the coast of New England. Helen was featured in several serials.
Sadly, William (Bill) Russell died in 1929. Bill had been ill in the hospital for just a week with pneumonia. He died before Helen could reach his bedside, he was just 45 and was known for his ‘he man’ roles although he had been on the stage since he was 8 years old and had played opposite the young and beautiful Ethel Barrymore, and many others. He had three sisters (Emma, Clara, Florence,) and his brother was Albert E. Lerch. Bill’s estate was large in 1929 standards and Helen was named his executrix.
In October of 1929, Helen gave an interview while in San Francisco staying at the Women’s City Club, she explained that she didn’t really have an aim in life since the death of her husband, she had been at lose ends.
She explained she had lost all ambition but had learned to be tolerant of others’ feelings. A year after it was reported that Helen was aimless she announced that a business friendship, which had begun in the handing of William Russell over $100,000 estate, had ripened into a romance with Richard L. Hargreaves, president of the Beverly Hills First National Bank. Richard Hargreaves was divorced in 1929 from Grace Bryan, the daughter of the late William Jennings Bryan.
In December 1930, when Helen married for the second time, she left film and went on the stage but by 1933, she retired from performing completely. Richard died in 1941; leaving Helen widowed a second time.
She found a second successful career in publicity and became a power in Hollywood, working with many of the great names in the movie industry: Henry Fonda, Barbara Stanwyek, Loretta Young, Pat O’Brien, Robert Taylor and Jeanette MacDonald. Helen worked as one of the foremost super-press (suppress) agents for nearly 20 years. Helen Ferguson Public Relations 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills and her home address was 400 S Burnside Ave LA CA 90036. She retired from publicity work in 1967, after a wonderful and long career.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack FritscherSadly, William (Bill) Russell died in 1929. Bill had been ill in the hospital for just a week with pneumonia. He died before Helen could reach his bedside, he was just 45 and was known for his ‘he man’ roles although he had been on the stage since he was 8 years old and had played opposite the young and beautiful Ethel Barrymore, and many others. He had three sisters (Emma, Clara, Florence,) and his brother was Albert E. Lerch. Bill’s estate was large in 1929 standards and Helen was named his executrix.
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