Stella Dallas (1937) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A working-class woman is willing to do whatever it takes to give her daughter a socially promising future.

  • 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.

  • In 1919, the ambitious Stella Martin lives with her working-class family and her father and her brother are workers in a mill in Massachusetts. Stella is decided to climb to the upper-class to party and she chases the mill executive Stephen Dallas to marry him. Soon her dream comes true and they have a daughter, Laurel. Stella has a vulgar behavior when she meets the horse gambler Ed Munn in a night-club bothering Stephen. When he is transferred to a better position in New York, she decides to stay in Massachusetts with her daughter. Years later, Laurel is a lovely teenager and Stella Dallas is a dedicated mother. When Stephen stumbles with his former fiancée Helen Morrison is a department store, he asks Stella for a divorce to marry Helen but she refuses. Stella decides to travel with Laurel to an expensive resort and Laurel befriends wealthy teenagers. When the tacky Stella seeks out Laurel in the facility, the youngsters notes her vulgarity and Laurel decides to leave the resort without telling the truth to her mother. However she overhears the cruel comments about her in the train. Now Stella takes the ultimate sacrifice for the wellbeing of her beloved daughter.

  • Stella Martin comes from a blue collar family but has dreams of a better life for herself. She meets and quickly marries Stephen Dallas, advertising manager at the mill where her father works. They have a baby girl, Laurel, but Stella doesn't heed her husband's advice. She's loud, dresses cheaply and drinks just a bit too much despite her boast that she has stacks of class. When Stephen gets a job in New York City, Stella and Laurel stay behind. Laurel grows into a beautiful young lady and spends a holiday with her father and his first love, the widowed Mrs. Helen Morrison and her three sons. Stella loves her daughter very much and comes to realize after a holiday at a fancy resort, that she is the only impediment to Laurel having the life she had always dreamed of for herself.

  • From a working class family, Stella Martin works to move up in the world, including wanting to marry into wealth. She sets her sights on Stephen Dallas, the advertising manager of the mill where her father and brother work. She knows that Stephen is at a vulnerable stage in his life, having been born into wealth, but dropping out of society without a penny after his father committed suicide because of bankruptcy. Stephen left behind a fiancée, Helen Dane, to who he still wanted to get married after making his mark in life. Now that he has done so, he learns that Helen is now married Mrs. Morrison. Putting on her best airs, Stella is able to captivate Stephen, the two who do get married. After a few years, they both realize that marriage to each other is not quite what either expected or wants. Although Stella told him pre-marriage that she wanted to learn from Stephen, she now feels that he is too controlling in trying to make her more refined in his and his society friends' eyes. They decide to separate despite now having a child, Laurel, who remains with Stella. Both parents love their daughter, Stella who redirects her energies to caring for her. As Laurel grows up into young womanhood, she remains loyal to both parents, who she truly does love. But Stella and Stephen may have different views of what is best for their collective lives, most specifically for Laurel, as Stephen reconnects with a now widowed Helen Morrison, and as Laurel finds her own society boy to who she wants to get married.



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