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Stella Dallas

Released Aug 5, 1937 1h 51m Drama List
90% Tomatometer 10 Reviews 83% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings
When Stella Martin (Barbara Stanwyck), a working class woman, meets and marries the wealthy Stephen Dallas (John Boles), they quickly have a daughter named Laurel (Anne Shirley). Stella and Stephen struggle to stay happy as their class differences become a problem; when they finally separate, Laurel is caught in the middle of the divorce. Soon, Lauren becomes the center of Stella's life. Stella tries to be a good mother, but realizes that her daughter can flourish quite well without her. Read More Read Less
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Critics Reviews

View All (10) Critics Reviews
Scott Tobias The Dissolve Stella Dallas itself-sentimental without question, building to an act of heartbreaking selflessness-earns the copious tears it jerks, embodying the "weepie" in every respect, yet more complicated and more flush with genuine emotion. Rated: 4.5/5 Jan 8, 2014 Full Review Josh Larsen LarsenOnFilm Barbara Stanwyck flings her voice around like a lasso. Rated: 3.5/4 Jul 6, 2022 Full Review Loren King Newport This Week (RI) The mother of all sacrificial mother movies, "Stella Dallas," should have earned an Oscar for Barbara Stanwyck in 1937 for what is arguably her finest performance. May 7, 2020 Full Review Ann Ross Maclean's Magazine Barbara Stanwyck, always at home in a part that calls for tough yet tender handling, is excellent as Stella, and Ann Shirley is surprisingly good as the daughter, Laurel. Sep 26, 2019 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews Barbara Stanwyck gives a sensational brassy performance as the ambitious poor girl trying to make a better life for herself by marrying above her class. Rated: B- Oct 13, 2014 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com King Vidor's tasteful direction and Stanwyck's heartbreaking performance as the self-sacrificing mother are responsible for the emotional power of this melodrama, recently evaluated and elevated by both feminist and auteurist critics. Rated: A- Jan 7, 2008 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (129) audience reviews
Jeff M Although some of the acting and plot points may seem exaggerated and outdated over 80 years after its initial release, the basic themes and emotions remain timeless. If you like a good tearjerker, this is one of the granddaddies of them all. The 1990 remake with Bette Midler called STELLA is fun in a schmaltzy kind of way but doesn't have near the heart or emotional honesty of this predecessor. Stanwyck received the first of her four Oscar nominations for this movie, and she is incandescent throughout, illuminating the screen like only a good old-fashioned movie star can do. One could argue she slightly overplays the middle part of the film, but she more than makes up for it in the end. If you don't have at least a lump in your throat as she walks into the darkness through the pouring rain, well, I think you need to check your pulse. And after the credits roll, I'm sure parents will at least briefly contemplate to what extent they would be willing to go to insure their childrens' happiness. This is a beautiful and lovingly made film that holds up quite magnificently - and actually gives one quite a bit to think about afterwards. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/11/24 Full Review Ernie K A heart-felt performance by Barbara Stanwyck, combining the sort of toughness, sadness, optimism, and love that is a signature of her many talents, carries the day in this absorbing roller coaster of hope, loss, and ultimate realization of selflessness. The story is tightly written, with some necessarily gradual character building that only a story written from the heart is capable of. Like City Lights, if the finalie doesn't evoke an emotional response from you you're made of stone. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 02/06/24 Full Review harwee h Barbara Stanwyck gave a memorable performance. Though the film itself is unabashedly over-sentimental, the film worth watching just for Stanwyck, solid direction, and emotional ending. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 12/28/23 Full Review Audience Member Stella Dallas is probably one of the most complex roles in a soap opera for any female actress to play. She's loud, brassy, and vulgar. She also knows that she desperately wants some kind of class. Her problem is that she thinks she can marry it and her problems are solved. For Barbara Stanwyck as Stella Martin that was only the beginning when she married Stephen Dallas played by John Boles. They come from different worlds, Stanwyck and Boles, and even with the birth of a daughter it doesn't bring them together. Samuel Goldwyn had great success with the silent version of Stella Dallas, it was his biggest moneymaker as a silent film. Goldwyn waited until he found the right actress for Stella before doing it again. Though he wanted Ruth Chatterton to play Stella, he was more than pleased with Barbara Stanwyck's Oscar nominated performance. Stanwyck hits Stella on every level just right, especially when she realizes after overhearing some women on a train talking about how vulgar she is and realizing what harm she was doing to her now grown up daughter played by Anne Shirley. Stanwyck makes the ultimate sacrifice for a mother and tears at the audience's hearts. Two other performances I liked in Stella Dallas. One was Barbara O'Neil as Mrs. Morrison the widow who became John Boles's second wife. Her scene with Stanwyck as Stanwyck tells her to take Shirley off her hands is a classic. Barbara O'Neil was gracious and charming, and exhibits a discerning heart. This would have been her career role had she not also played Scarlett O'Hara's mother in Gone With the Wind. The other performance is from that scene stealer Alan Hale as the good time salesman who Stanwyck takes up with. He's as vulgar as she is, but he also is not a bad person, just not anyone's ideal husband. Still they're as suited for each other as Boles and Stanwyck were not. I guess the moral of the Stella Dallas story is that romance is not like water, it does not seek its own level. Maybe it should however. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 02/08/23 Full Review mike v Stella Dallas is a 1937 American drama film directed by King Vidor 🍿 It's very good 🙂 I'd recommend it i 👍🏼 SURE - I LIKE A GOOD TIME! Rated 4 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review William L There are two aspects to Stella's personality - she loves her daughter (who rewards her with complete devotion despite Stella's emotional outbursts and tacit acceptance of the borderline sexual assault of Hale's "Uncle" Ed) and she is a gold-digger with no taste who steadfastly refuses to compromise in the manner of a healthy relationship. Stanwyck plays the role convincingly, but the story is rather unsympathetic for what is supposed to be a compelling drama stuffed with empathetic moments and capped by a tearful separation. The final sacrifice, by the way, is only necessitated based on Stella's own bad taste in clothing, makeup, and manners (which she refuses to change, but could do so at any time), and the social feedback that her daughter Laurel receives as a result. Stella's lifestyle is entirely subsidized by her estranged marriage (which she prolongs knowing her husband wants to marry someone else; that was literally the role of a major villain in Sullivan's Travels), she expects the entire world to cater to her desires and poor choices, and overall her character has few redeeming qualities. Meanwhile every other character in this film, apart from Ed, is shown to be ludicrously welcoming and kind, and we're supposed to feel sad for Stella? C'mon. The finale, where she agrees to a separation knowing it is in the best interest of her daughter's future, is literally the one selfless act she commits, and suddenly Stella is supposed to become a superficially flawed but generally sympathetic character with her love for her daghter redeeming her, but it doesn't work. The source material wants to present this as some sort of complex character study, but it just isn't. (2.5/5) Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 03/11/21 Full Review Read all reviews
Stella Dallas

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Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis When Stella Martin (Barbara Stanwyck), a working class woman, meets and marries the wealthy Stephen Dallas (John Boles), they quickly have a daughter named Laurel (Anne Shirley). Stella and Stephen struggle to stay happy as their class differences become a problem; when they finally separate, Laurel is caught in the middle of the divorce. Soon, Lauren becomes the center of Stella's life. Stella tries to be a good mother, but realizes that her daughter can flourish quite well without her.
Director
King Vidor
Producer
Samuel Goldwyn
Screenwriter
Joe Bigelow, Harry Wagstaff Gribble, Victor Heerman, Sarah Y. Mason, Gertrude Purcell, Olive Higgins Prouty
Distributor
United Artists
Production Co
Samuel Goldwyn Company
Genre
Drama
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Aug 5, 1937, Wide
Release Date (Streaming)
Jan 5, 2017
Runtime
1h 51m
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