Stella Dallas
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Barbara Stanwyck gave one of her inimitable and wonderfully enigmatic performances as a mill worker who marries her way into high society and soon experiences layers of frustration. Channeling her restlessness, she soon makes a positive though highly self-sacrificial decision on her daughter's behalf, and endures the agony of being replaced in her husband's life by an old, blue-blooded flame. King Vidor (The Crowd) directs with a fascinating sense of duality about Stanwyck's character: is her lower-caste vulgarity something to sneer at or something to applaud for the contrast she presents to the mannered upper classes? Stanwyck plays the riddle brilliantly, right down to the final moment of her character's weird self-satisfaction at being ostracized from her daughter's honeyed life. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews:

  • Nice but not the best
    The movie itself is the best,,,Barbara is awesome but the quality of the movie is not the best..Otherwise I love it....more info
  • Stella Dallas
    Excellent movie. I was delighted to find out that this movie was on DVD. I could only find this classic movie only available here. Be aware to shed some tears because this movie is well worth it. Good value for my money. ...more info
  • One of the best dramas ever!
    This is one of the finest dramas I've ever seen, and definately one of my favorites. Barbara Stanwyck is outstanding in the title role of "Stella Dallas." Alan Hale, Sr. provides good support in the role of the riding teacher who helps ruin Stella's reputation. Be sure to have a box of tissues nearby the first time you see it! Don't say I didn't warn you!!!!...more info
  • A must see classic tear-jerker!
    My grandmother remembered seeing this movie when it originally came out in 1937. When I started getting into Barbara Stanwyck, about a year ago, she recalled this film as being the only film she ever cried at when she was younger. Mind you that the main form of entertainment during the 30s and 40s were movies, and she saw MANY! So, to be nice, I went out and purchased a copy of the movie, and surprised her one day and we watched it. The year was 1997. She still cried. 60 YEARS LATER, the same movie she remembered as the only movie she ever cried at when she was younger, still got her the same way. Just a few weeks ago, we watched it again. Again, tears welled up in her eyes. This just goes to show the power of a brilliantly made, brilliantly acted film. And "Stella Dallas" combines both beautiful production and wonderful acting to produce one of THE BEST tear-jerkers ever made. Barbara Stanwyck as a mother who sacrifices everything for her only daughter (Anne Shirley), was nominated for an Oscar, and rightfully so! The scenes are classic, especially the final one, which I won't give away. This is a MUST SEE film..."Stella Dallas" will not disappoint you... END...more info
  • Guess what...
    I have never seen this movie, and I'm reviewing it. However, I have heard the radio version made after the movie (still 1937). If it's half as good as the movie, the movie's fabulous. Barbara Stanwyck is an ACTRESS. Actresses today could take some lessons from those silver screen greats like Stanwyck....more info
  • Stanwyck is the gem of this 1930s melodrama
    As other reviewers have said, "Stella Dallas" is a highly sentimental, soap-operaish 1930s movie. But it's still a good film, despite that fact that many aspects of the plot and characterization are dated.

    Barbara Stanwyck is the gem of this film, and she gives the most convincing performance (except for Alan Hale, her drunken friend, Ed). The movie begins with Stella, a girl from a working-class mill family, who dreams of marriage to Stephen Dallas, a well-to-do mill executive. With all the charm she can muster, Stella walks into Stephen's office at a crucial point in his life: he is in despair. She revives him, and the two are married within two weeks. What follows is rather predictable: the marriage was a mistake. Stephen's upper class society of manners and Stella's burning desire to experience the passion and wealth of life are sorely incompatible. After the birth of their daughter, Laurel, they part ways: he lives in New York, and she stays in Boston with their daughter. However, they do not divorce for nearly 15 years. Stella raises Laurel, and Stephen takes the child on vacations often. As Laurel grows older, it is obvious that her intellect and mannerisms mirror her father, and not her working-class, garish mother. Despite the fact that Laurel is essentially the only person or thing that Stella loves, Stella contrives a plot to deceive Laurel so that the teenage girl will willingly go live with her father, his new, beautiful, wealthy wife, and her three sons in a New York mansion.

    Stanwyck's acting is superb, one of the best in her career. She convincingly portrays a woman who is trapped in her lower-class social status, but desperately reaches for money and associations with the "right people." Anne Shirley, who plays Laurel in her teen years, seems to overact at times, but she delivers a top-notch performance as an innocent, wholesome teen torn between her separated parents. John Boles' performance is stiff and restrained, as usual, and his character is very flat (but it's supposed to be). Barbara O'Neil earns the audience's respect as the only person who genuinely understands Stella. And Alan Hale is brilliant as the crass, drunken, party-animal Ed Munn, and Stella simply can't resist his zest for life (at least initially).

    Although the film is encumbered with overly sentimental dialogue and a bit of overacting, it's a pretty good 1930s melodrama....more info

  • One of the Best Movies of Yesterday & Today!!
    I watched this movie for the first time in a film class. This movie touched me in a way no movie or book ever has. Stella Dallas is by far one of the greatest tear-jerkers of all time. The acting was superb as well as the story itself. A must see. END...more info
  • A dazzling performance, an amazing film
    Barbara Stanwyck secured her place in film history with this story of a selfless mother living her life through her daughter (Anne Shirley). As a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Stanwyck flirts with, and then ends up marrying a local businessman (John Boles), several steps above her station. Not long after their union, it becomes apparent that their personalities, goals, and temperments just don't mix. Her husband asks for a divorce, but Stanwyck is determined to raise their daughter on her own (with financial help from her husband, of course) with good results. Stanwyck's performance hits all the right notes, and even though the film is dated in some ways, her performance isn't. Stanwyck's honesty and warmth shine through today as they did in 1937. It's amazing she didn't win the Academy Award for this amazing and nuanced performance....more info
    Barbara Stanwyck never gave a bad performance. She was consistently good in everything she did. But this performance tops all the rest! Her Stella tears the heart out of you...she gets on your nerves, yes, but the love she shows for her daughter is genuine and Stanwyck shows all the multifaceted dimensions of this character. She truly shines in every scene, particularly the final fadeout! She deserved the Oscar nomination she received for this and she should have won. The DVD is remastered beautifully, both picture and sound. Unfortunately, no extras are included. But Stanwyck alone is worth it. Equally fine is Anne Shirley as Laurel, her daughter. John Boles is a milquetoast character who does what he can as Stephen Dallas. No wonder Stella finds him a bore. Enjoy this one folks because they truly don't make them like this anymore! And they never will again!...more info
  • One of Hollywood's greatest melodramas
    It's funny how, in this day and age, golden-age dramas can fall very definitely into one of two categories: ridiculous, and sublime. Happily, Barbara Stanwyck's finest hour, 'Stella Dalls', falls firmly into the second category, thanks to a wonderful performance by Ms. Stanwyck as the titular heroine.

    Stella Martin is the daughter of an impoverished steel-mill family. She is ambitious, however, and when she catches the eye of the recently-broke Stephen Dallas, he pushes his feelings for his wealthy ex-girlfriend aside and makes the best of a bad situation. Unhappily married to the uncouth Stella, he spends more and more time away from her, taking only short holidays with his beloved daughter, Laurel. Stella soon realises that a mother's love cannot provide the best social advantages for Laurel, and makes the ultimate sacrifice for the good of her family.

    Stanwyck's supporting cast are of a type, but they're still good - John Boles as Stephen and Barbara O' Neil as Helen Morrisson give strong performances. Alan Hale does an excellent job with the character of Ed Munn, a good-time gambler on the road to self-destruction. He plays the role with a sensitivity and pathos rare to films of this era. Anne Shirley as Laurel is cloying and sentimental, but then again, she's supposed to be.

    It's Ms. Stanwyck's performance as Stella that saves this movie from mediocrity, and catapults it into the ranks of other big-league melodramas such as 'Now, Voyager' and 'Imitation of Life'. As Stella, she is perfectly capable of forcing us to empathise, and we respond in kind. Surely, hers is the ultimate sacrifice, and we are with her every step of the way. Her eyes, her expressions of total selflessness and her total devotion to the betterment of her daughter give us a true sense of what motherhood is about.

    Beautifully directed by King Vidor, it's a triumph that this picture is finally available on DVD. It's not a happy movie, but it is a testament to the once-extraordinary power of Hollywood to create beautiful and emotional pieces of cinema....more info

    If any Stanwyck picture would prove that she was the greatest actress of her generation (or any generation), one only needs to see her in this!! In a career that spanned nearly 70 years, Stella Dallas is the role she loved best and regretted most losing the Oscar. As she once said "My life's blood was in that film". Indeed. Who can forget the touching scene with Barbara O'Neill when she is surrendering her daughter to her. Or the scene when she has to 'lie' to her daughter and act as if she doesn't care about her when inside her heart is truly breaking. Or the the train sequence when she and Laurel (her daughter) overhear Laurel's friends demeaning Stanwyck's character with Laurel not knowing that Stanwyck has heard everything. Or the ending scene with Stella watching from the outside watching her daughter's wedding? I defy anyone to not shed a tear during this final scene. Stanwyck's bravura shone through all of her films (even her bad ones....yes she made her share of them too...) but when one sees her in Stella Dallas one realizes that Stanwyck could act rings around (OVERLY HAMMY, BUG EYED, HAND WRINGING, SHOULDER SHAKING, RAPID SPEECH CLIPPING) Bette Davis or (TWITTERING, MANNERY, LIP SHAKING, HIGH STRUNG) Katharine Hepburn. No one could touch Stanwyck!! If you have never seen this film you will understand why...and if you do see this film...have a couple of boxes of kleenex'll need them. Why Stanwyck lost the Oscar for this to Luise Rainer (THE GOOD EARTH) I will never understand. But then of course, why Stanwyck lost the Oscar the other three times she was nominated I will never understand. She was the greatest!!! And She also had a humanity about her that was second to none!! ...more info
  • A Sentimental Sacrifice
    It is quite telling that Frank Borzage and King Vidor, two film pioneers who both began in the silent art form of film, were quite successful in the transition to sound. And perhaps because of their origins, brought a sensitivity to sentimental dramas better than anyone else in Hollywood. In other hands, Stella Dallas might have been a maudlin soaper, but with Vidor at the helm, and Barbara Stanwyck in front of Rudolph Mate's camera lens, Stella Dallas is a memorable drama of a mother's love for her daughter.

    Samuel Goldwyn had a long association with King Vidor and this is one of their finest collaborations as producer and director. The novel by Olive Higgins Prouty and adaptation by Sarah Y Mason and Victor Heerman had sudser written all over it. Yet sensitive direction, a wonderful score by Alfred E. Newman, and sparkling performances from Stanwyck and Anne Shirley turn this into a screen classic; albeit a dated one. There is more to this film than just Stanwyck and Shirley, however, and the story within the story sometimes gets lost when this film is talked about.

    Stella (Barbara Stanwyck) is young and full of ambition to rise above her mill worker life. It is 1919 as her story begins to unfold, Stella pining for Stephen Dallas (John Boles), who missed his chance at happiness with a society girl when his father went broke. Stella is sweet, and keeps herself in front of him until he notices. It isn't long before they are married, and Stella gets a taste of the nicer life and respectability she desires. Her other side of the tracks upbringing, however, keeps getting in the way. Vidor does a wonderful job of straddling the fence as regards Stella; showing her as both garish and sweet. But she is a clay her husband wants to mold into something she is not, rather than loving her for what she is. Vidor shows that as much as Stella's behavior can be blamed for the couple's problems, so can Stephen's refusal to loosen up and be proud of his wife.

    Not long after a beautiful baby enters their lives, Stella finds a pal in Ed (Alan Hale), whose good heart but lurid behavior at least doesn't make her feel ashamed of herself. Both Vidor and Stanwyck make no excuses for Stella's behavior, yet in doing so, show the deeper truth that had Stephen loved her for who she was, things might have been different. Separated and raising her Laurel (Anne Shirley) alone while Stephen falls in love all over again with Helen Morrison (Barbara O'Neil), and sees the life he actually wanted, Stella stays married, perhaps hoping that one day he will come back and love her for who she is. Stanwyck is marvelous in a scene where he comes to visit Laurel at Christmas and for a moment her hope burns bright, then fades like fingers putting out the flame from a candle.

    After the inevitable divorce occurs, Stella makes every sacrifice for her daughter, trying to give her refined Laurel all the society trappings she deserves. But a moment on a train where Stella overhears Laurel's friends talking, sets in motion a heartbreaking sacrifice for both Stella and Laurel. Barbara O'Neil is quite marvelous in what could have been an unsympathetic role. She makes Helen a kind woman who Laurel cares for and is good for Stephen. And she is also kind and understanding in regards to Stella. She is no home-wrecker, only a woman caught in a terribly difficult situation. Stanwyck is stellar here, making you dislike her one moment, and love her the next. The love she has for her daughter is shown in all the dresses she makes for her by hand; all copies of society fashions.

    Often lost in the hoopla over the subject matter and Stanwyck's performance is the equally tremendous job turned in by Anne Shirley in the role of Lolly (Laurel). She is radiant as a young woman full of refinement and happiness but basking in her mother's devotion to her. Her romantic moments with Richard (Tim Holt) and heartbreak which follows show the contrast between the world Stella wants for her and where she belongs, and the reality of being Stella's daughter among the blue bloods. Laurel knows her mother needs her, however, just as she needed her mother growing up, so Stella's first attempt at sacrifice fails. What follows is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and a rich and mature look at what it is to be a parent and let go at the right time.

    This film rises above a mere soaper, giving a rich and even mature look at how imperfect people can create something wonderful, even at their own expense. A sentimental film classic. ...more info
  • Classic Story Of A Mother's Enduring Love For Her Daughter
    When the phrase "They don't make 'em like that anymore", is bandied about no film in my belief matches it more perfectly than King Vidor's 1937 tribute to a mother's self sacrificing love for her daughter in the classic "Stella Dallas". It marked a real breakthrough for Barbara Stanwyck into the emotionally charged type of roles for which she became renowned for in the next decade and won her a richly deserved nomination for Best Actress that year. I can't understand those people that nowadays dismiss this wonderful film as "syrupy",or "dated". Perhaps they have been too harshly conditioned by most of the cynical output from present day Hollywood. If any present day film dealing with inter family relationships had even half the emotional impact possessed by "Stella dallas", I'd love to see it. ...more info
  • Social climber falls down, actress succeeds
    I first saw this film a month ago, and right out, I have to say I never was a great fan of Barbara Stanwyck. She was a great actress, but too headstrong or selfish (I like Katharine Hepburn better, but not by very much because she was a little bit like Stanwyck). Here, Barbara plays Stella Dallas, from a poor family intent on marrying Stephen Dallas (John Boles). Personally, I think it is for his social position.
    I am a big fan of John Boles--but he and his character Stephen Dallas gets a bum rap. Stephen's bankrupt millionaire father had committed suicide, by which he also deserts his well-bred fiance Helen (Barbara O'Neill). Stella goes to his office to captivate him, and she succeeds by being ladylike and well-dressed. It's no wonder he falls for her, for he is lonely and upset by Helen's rebound marriage to a Mr. Morrison. After probably only a couple of weeks of meeting Stella, Stephen marries her.
    A year later, their daughter Laurel is born. The day they come home from the hospital, Stella finds an invitation to a dance, and Stephen gives in. Stella deliberately detains their departure, and they have a confrontation at home that Boles handles very well (for his character's limitations). Their marriage is in serious trouble--clearly Stella had a big part in ruining it. When she's asked why she married him, she says that she was crazy about him. But Stephen loves her. She's sick of giving up things for him and doesn't see him giving up anything--but he's had to put up with her bad behavior, so he has gone without too. When he says he's accepted the request of working at the New York branch of his company and wants her to go with him, Stella refuses, and their marriage is effectively over.
    Anne Shirley (as their daughter Laurel) was Oscar-nominated along with Barbara Stanwyck. She is very enthusiastic and well-mannered, quite similar to her well-bred father considering Stella raised her, but she's seen her father every year. Stanwyck has always wanted the best for her, the one thing that is commendable about her. Days before Laurel's 13th birthday, Stephen meets Helen, who is now widowed. Stephen and Laurel spend her birthday with Helen and her three sons. Stephen has always loved Helen, and spends lots of time with her, which makes Stella suspicious.
    Then Stella and Stephen reunite cordially one Christmas. He's invited Laurel to spend the holidays with Helen, but after seeing what Stella's done, he sees no reason why she can't join them, and means it. While phoning the train for a later time, he sees a drunken Ed Munn (played by Alan Hale), who sobers instantly. Stephen wants to get a divorce to marry Helen and let Stella have her freedom (He mistakenly assumes she wants to marry Ed). Stella is pure poison talking to his lawyer, and thinks Stephen's trying to get her to want more than what she can give by sending her to fancy places. She tries the very same thing, but it ends in disaster. She meets Helen and wants her to be Laurel's mother after she is married to Stephen.
    Barbara O'Neill is the only one who really understands Laurel, unfortunately, but it's not John Boles' fault. His role is relatively small and is basically that of a gentlemanly, loving father who couldn't completely understand Laurel if he wanted to. He has some very good scenes and is a good actor, but it's almost a wasted role--the role isn't worthy of him at all. The roles requires an stiffness toward Stella that is painful to watch, and I've never seen him have to be that before!
    Alan Hale as Ed Munn gets a very well-rounded role as the uncouth, occasional drunk who wanted to marry Stella, but is turned down. Anne Shirley's scenes are SO enjoyable. The film belongs to Stanwyck, but much of the film revolves around Laurel, and a more worthy teenaged actress to fit the bill would be very hard to find. I am also a big fan of Anne Shirley. The film spans at least 18 years, and that is at times quite inconsistent. No one looks the right age all the time, but look the appropriate age at different times. Stella and Stephen seem to not age at all (or too much). But those are only minor failings in a wonderful film....more info
  • A wonderful mom story.
    The mom (Barbara Stanwyck) is a tacky, tastless woman, but loves her little daughter so very much that she makes what I consider to be the ultimate sacrafice. I won't ruin the end for you by saying what she does, but it is one of my favorite old movies.

    Don't bother with the re-make, which I believe was done in the 90's sometime. It's a terrible dissapointment. ...more info
  • The Ultimate Best of A Mother's Sacrificing Love
    The ultimate of all tearjerkers. You have this young woman who works her way to marry this man of another class, but kind of forgets it takes class to keep class, and in time the sap of a husband sees that, and though they have a lovely little girl, the marriage doesn't work out, but Stella becomes as good of a mother to Laurel as she can be;Though she attempts to make things better for her, somehow, it doesn't work out well, and in the end, in defeat, she gives Laurel to her father and his now wife; The ending will make you cry; Grab your hankies and enjoy. ...more info
  • "I just want to have some fun"
    Barbara Stanwyck was nominated for an Oscar in this legendary soap opera that explores the issues of mother-daughter relationships and social class in the 1920's. The actress gives a finely wrought and quite compelling performance as Stella Dallas, the uncultured, unsophisticated bohemian floozy, who marries a man for his money but can't quite live up to what is expected of her.

    The movie begins as a rags to riches story. Stella Martin (Stanwyck) is tired of living in her father's shack in a mill town, so she puts on a sweet act and in record time maneuvers her way into a marriage with Stephen Dallas (John Boles), a disinherited ex-millionaire who mourns the wedding of his intended, Helen (Barbara O'Neil) to another man.

    At first, Stephen is smitten with Stella's fun-loving, innocent ways, and it seems that they are well and truly on the path to social success. However, after the birth of their first child Laurel (Anne Shirley), Stella begins to exhibit vulgar and unseemly behaviour. Her nurses and husband don't want her going to a dance so soon after having a baby - but the feisty Stella just can't help herself, so she goes anyway. She laughs like a bawdy dance hall girl, dances with strange men, and generally exhibits low-class tendencies.

    The rigid and conservative Stephen is appalled; he's far more concerned about social propriety and worries that people will begin to "talk." Stella however, refuses to alter her lifestyle to cater to her husband's wishes and his more refined background. He wants to go to New York, but she stays behind to have fun, eventually befriending a lower-class businessman and dance partner Ed Munn (Alan Hale).

    Ed is a fat and uncouth loudmouth, who smokes cigars, jokingly places itching powder on people, and leaves hard liquor around Lauren. Stella does nothing about it, for she sees Ed as a type of kindred spirit and even thinks that his improper and offensive ways are quite funny. Meanwhile back East, Stephen becomes re-acquainted with Helen, his original sweetheart, who is now a widow with three perfectly groomed and faultlessly well-mannered young boys.

    Eventually, Laurel grows up and Stella's common manners and undignified behavior begin to become a problem as Lauren has now started spending more time with her father and the wealthy Helen. Lauren, now a mirror image of her father, has begun to exhibit all of his patrician qualities; she's cultured, sweet, absolutely adorable and possessed of the most impeccable manners.

    Even though Laurel loves her mother terribly, she soon realizes that her mum has become a frumpy embarrassment, a low class harridan, who wears loud, obnoxious, and tacky clothing. When Stella finally wizens up to what people are saying about her - that's she's a tramp and a horrible mother, when in reality she's not - she sacrifices her own happiness for her daughter's happiness so that Lauren can, once and for all, "make it" in upper-class society and marry the boy she loves.

    Stella Dallas is pretty much a two-hour endorsement of class elitism; it's also a rather cautionary tale that ultimately acts as a warning against social ambition. One should not think of aspiring above one's station in life. Stella wants desperately to make something of herself, but she finds that having social respect and money, while giving her security, isn't really that much fun.

    Stanwyck does a good job of imbuing her tragic, misguided, and totally misunderstood heroine with a certain amount of viewer sympathy even when her social missteps and her outlandish outfits often cause us to cringe. By the time Stella attempts to join the country club elite wearing a patchwork-frilled dress, a dreadful white fox wrap, bells on her shoes and tightly curled bleach-blonde hair, it is hard not to agree with the snobbish remarks that are murmured behind her back.

    Stella is a lovely, kind, and attractive woman - she's just a bit impetuous and brash. We consequently sympathize with her plight, but are also inclined to mock and ridicule her misplaced sense of taste and style. Perhaps this reaction is a fitting testament to Stanwyck's brave, complex, and uncompromising performance, and also to the strength and potency of the movie itself. Mike Leonard July 05.
    ...more info
  • Easily among Stanwyck's finest performances
    A brilliant performance by Miss Barbara Stanwyck breathed heart-wrenching life into this facinating and multi-textured story of a common working class girl driven to insinuate herself into the rarified world of well-born "swells". Stella manuevers herself into the world of society by marrying into respectable privilege and produces a daughter she eventually dotes upon. Stella never quite develops enough polish to truly fit in to the world she so longs to be part of, indeed her off-key efforts at sophisticated manner and dress emanate forcefully from the screen and resonate effectively in the heart and mind of the sypathetic movie viewer, such is the mastery of Miss Stanwyck's skill and craft. But in the end, Stella is enigmatically triumphant as defined by the classic heart-breaking closing scene in which she secretly bears successful witness to her unswervingly devoted daughter's society marriage vows and by extension, passage through the doorway of acceptance Stella had so long dreamed of crossing. Truly masterful movie-making elements are at work here that at times seem to barely skirt the edges of gratitious sentimentality....still, a tour de force work courtesy of the studio machine that was the Golden Age of Hollywood. ...more info
  • Why did she marry the guy?
    I like this movie, but what I don't understand is why Stella marries Mr. Dallas. Was it for money or did she actually love the guy? It's obvious that Dallas marries Stella on the rebound, and if Stella married for money, then the whole story would seem like justice. Otherwise, I think it's a very sad story about a very stupid girl who ruins her life out of ignorance....more info