From a socially prominent New England family, she graduated from Sarah Lawrence college.
Her acting career began on stage with a summer stock company called the Cape Cod University Players, which was co-founded (1928) by future director/screenwriter Joshua Logan (she was married briefly to Logan in the 1930s). Other famous players who got their start in this prestigious company included Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan and Mildred Natwick.
Reputedly a descendant of Irish kings, she was multi-lingual and widely travelled. A graduate from Sarah Lawrence college, she made her Broadway debut in 1933 in 'Carrie Nation'. Three years later, Barbara appeared in 'Ten Million Ghosts' with Orson Welles, prompting interest from Hollywood, where she made a career out of playing a succession of neurotic or sweetly dependable wives. Her best roles were in 'Stella Dallas' and 'All This and Heaven Too' (1940).
Striking, mature-looking brunette from Broadway in late 30s support film roles, playing neurotic, over-the-edge wives and socialites with flair.
Was artist-in-residence at the University of Denver between 1958 and 1960. Retired shortly after to the family home in Cos Cob, Connecticut.
Was only 28 when she appeared as Ellen O'Hara (mother of Scarlett) in Gone with the Wind (1939).