Baxley, Barbara, 1923-1990

Alternative names
Birth 1923-01-01
Death 1990-06-07

Biographical notes:

Barbara Baxley was born on January 1, 1923 in Stockton, California. She attended the University of the Pacific, where she acted in plays, and graduated with honors. She moved to New York, where she trained with Sanford Meisner and Martha Graham at the Neighborhood Playhouse, and with Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio.

Baxley made her Broadway debut as Sybil in the Tallulah Bankhead Private Lives (1948), and followed that with Peter Pan (1950), in which she understudied Jean Arthur in the title role. In 1951, she starred in a short-lived comedy, Out West of Eight, and in 1952, she replaced Julie Harris as Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera. Other Broadway appearances during the 1950s include Tennessee Williams' Camino Real (1953), the sex comedy Oh Men! Oh Women! (1953), Baxley's personal favorite: Clifford Odets' The Flowering Peach (1954), and William Inge's Bus Stop (1955), in which she replaced Kim Stanley as Cherie. Baxley also appeared in regional productions of Much Ado About Nothing (1955) in Chicago, and A Palm Tree in a Rose Garden (1957) in Cricket, New York. She starred in the National Tour of Inge's The Dark at the Top of the Stairs in 1959.

In the 1960s Baxley continued to be active on Broadway in Tennessee Williams' Period of Adjustment (1960), the musical She Loves Me (1963), Chekov's The Three Sisters (1964), and Neil Simon's Plaza Suite (1968). Other New York appearances included Brecht on Brecht (1962) at the Theatre de Lys; To Be Young, Gifted, and Black (1967) at the Cherry Lane Theatre; and Measure for Measure (1966) at the Delacorte Theatre. Baxley appeared in regional productions, such as Taming of the Shrew (1962) at the University of Oklahoma; The Misanthrope (1964) at the University of Chicago; The Grass Harp (1966) at the Trinity Square in Providence, Rhode Island; and The Merchant of Venice (1967) at the American Shakespeare Festival.

Baxley's stage work in the 1970s included Me Jack, You Jill and Best Friend on Broadway in 1976; The Scarecrow (1975) at the Kennedy Center; The Dream (1977) in Philadelphia; Past Tense (1977) at Hartford Stage; Are You Now or Have You Ever Been…? Off-Broadway; and the National Tour of Zorba (1972-1973). Her stage work in the 1980s was primarily in regional theatre, appearing in, among others, Mrs. Warren's Profession (1982) and Major Barbara (1984) at Yale Repertory; and starring in Sweet Bird of Youth (1984) at Portland State University. She also developed a one woman show during the early 1980s, first under the title Spooky Lady, and later changed to Wayward Wings.

Though Baxley was mainly known for her stage work, she was also active in film and television. Highlights of her film career include East of Eden (1955), The Savage Eye (1960), All Fall Down (1962), Nashville (1975), and Norma Rae (1979). In 1984, Baxley was a visiting professor, teaching acting at both Carnegie Mellon University and Portland State University. An active member of the organization, Baxley won the Actors Studio Award for Achievement in 1980.

Baxley married actor and playwright Doug Taylor in 1961. She died of a heart attack on June 7, 1990, in her New York City apartment.

From the guide to the Barbara Baxley papers, 1911-1988, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)


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