Stella Dallas is a small town girl who marries the upper class Stephen Dallas, with whom she has nothing in common. After the birth of a daughter, Laurel, the Dallases go their separate ... See full summary »
Working-class Stella Martin marries high-end Stephen Dallas and soon they have a daughter named Laurel. But Stephen's incessant demands of Stella to become what she isn't leads to their eventual separation. Stephen later marries Helen Morrison (his prior fiancée), and Laurel becomes the focus of Stella's life and love. Nothing is too good for Laurel as far as Stella is concerned. Determined to give her all the advantages, she takes Laurel on a trip to an expensive resort where Laurel makes friends with rich kids. After an embarrassing incident, Stella realizes that her daughter would go farther in life without Stella as her mother. Her subsequent sacrifice is shattering.Written by
Barbara Stanwyck underwent a physical transformation to play her role, in which she ages some 15 or 20 years. For the first and only time in her career, she bleached her hair. In other movies where she appears blonde, she is wearing a wig - and she does don them for certain scenes here. But she wanted to use her own hair whenever possible. Wearing wigs, she said, would mean that "I couldn't do anything with my hands, like running them through my hair. Furthermore, in her home Stella's hair was neglected, unkempt - and that just can't be done realistically except with one's own hair." Goldwyn's head designer, Omar Kiam, outfitted her with some outrageously tacky costumes that reflected her character's lack of taste. Late in the film, he added lumpy padding to her torso and legs. She wore five pairs of hose to make her ankles look thick, and at times her cheeks were stuffed with cotton. "It was a matter of upholstery," Stanwyck later laughed. See more »
When Stella is working on the sofa in her light robe you can see the padding on her rear. This is later in the movie. See more »
Barbara Stanwyck is very good in this melodrama, but I believe little praise has been given to King Vidor, whom I have grown to appreciate in recent years as one of the best classic American filmmakers of all times. Precisely for this reason I finally acquired this film and enjoyed it very much, especially as he shows great perception to depict the cruel and too frequent irreconcilable differences that end relationships. In movies like «The Crowd», «Our Daily Bread», «Street Scene», «Hallelujah!» and even «Bird of Paradise» or "Solomon and Sheba» Vidor intelligently dealt with social, cultural, ethnic, economic or ideological differences, that still affect people and quite often impede any one of us to find happiness. Perhaps the ornamented Stella is a bit overdone, especially in the hotel sequence after she has previously demonstrated how to control her tendency to be excessive and vulgar in dress, make-up, hair style or social manners, when Mr. Dallas picks up their daughter to spend Christmas with him. But most of the time Vidor keeps everything tight, including Sherman Todd's film editing, and even Alfred Newman's melodramatic string overflows are well measured. I must add that the rest of the cast is all good, making «Stella Dallas» a rewarding film experience.
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