Stella Dallas

  • 1937
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

Grand Vidor soap opera, boasting a brilliant Stanwyck performance. She's a tough cookie, a bit of a shrew and a grasping woman who snares Boles, a well-born young man whose family lost its old money when his father committed suicide. Boles has moved to a tiny New England town where he meets Stanwyck. He had been engaged to O'Neil, a woman of the same social...read more

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Grand Vidor soap opera, boasting a brilliant Stanwyck performance. She's a tough cookie, a bit of a shrew and a grasping woman who snares Boles, a well-born young man whose family lost its old money when his father committed suicide. Boles has moved to a tiny New England town where he

meets Stanwyck. He had been engaged to O'Neil, a woman of the same social level as himself, but when his fortune was lost he left, and she took up with another. Stanwyck is aware of his background from reading the tabloids. They have a daughter, but the difference in their classes continues to

keep them distanced from one another. When Boles is offered a job in New York and asks Stanwyck to come with him, she fears being laughed at by his society friends, so he goes south and she stays in the mill town.

Stanwyck begins running around with the rough-hewn, hard-drinking friends of her youth but she remains a good mother, almost too good, as she lavishes love and affection on the child (played as an adult by Shirley). Hale would like to marry Stanwyck, but her life is devoted to her daughter. One

day, while riding a train, Hale gets abusive and offends many of the townspeople, who associate him with Stanwyck and Shirley. When Shirley invites her friends to a birthday party, she and Stanwyck are snubbed in a particularly touching scene. Boles would like a divorce so he can wed O'Neil, a

widow with two sons, but Stanwyck will not give her consent. Shirley and Stanwyck visit a posh resort on the strength of Boles's cash, and on this trip Stanwyck learns that her coarse behavior and garish clothing stand in the way of Shirley's happiness.

Despite unforgettable work in a slew of other films, Stanwyck was quoted as saying that this was the best acting she'd ever done and it remained her favorite role. Only 30 years old at the time of STELLA, she had to be aged considerably to look right as the mother of an adult daughter. The role

demanded a vast range of emotion, and Stanwyck wrung every last smile and tear out of every speech. Even when she was simply reacting, Stanwyck emanated frustration channeled into maternal martyrdom, but without an ounce of self-pity. She is well-supported by Shirley and Hale, with John Boles his

typical handsome if rather stolid self and Barbara O'Neill fine as the noble rich woman. The film was remade in 1990 as STELLA, with Bette Midler having some effective moments, with no help from anyone else.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Grand Vidor soap opera, boasting a brilliant Stanwyck performance. She's a tough cookie, a bit of a shrew and a grasping woman who snares Boles, a well-born young man whose family lost its old money when his father committed suicide. Boles has moved to a t… (more)

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