[box cover]

Stella Dallas

As a testament to the enduring power of mother-love, the combined talents of director King Vidor, produce Samuel Goldwyn, and actress Barbara Stanwyck elevated the tear-jerker Stella Dallas (1937) to the level of classic cinema. A vulgar, lower-class factory worker from the wrong side of the tracks, Stella (Stanwyck) plots her escape from the home of her tyrannical father by setting her sites on wealthy Stephen Dallas (John Boles). After an oh-so-brief courtship, the couple have a daughter and Stephen gets the chance to take a job in New York — sure that her own lack of sophistication will hold him back, Stella stays behind, associating with her crude former lover (Alan Hale, Jr.), an act that drives her husband even further away. When the town's elite boycott her daughter's birthday party, Stella decides that she must abandon her child to her well-heeled husband to give the girl the better life that she herself has always dreamed of. This second version of Olive Higgins Proty's novel (the first, from 1925, starred Belle Bennett and Ronald Colman, and a less successful version titled Stella starred Bette Midler in 1990) was huge box-office hit, garnering Oscar nominations for both Stanwyck and Shirley — despite Stanwyck having almost never gotten the role at all (she was disliked by Goldwyn, who thought she had no sex appeal). The film is a classic chick-flick, unabashedly soapy and gorgeous to look at, as with all of King Vidor's films. Stanwyck was justly praised for her no-holds-barred performance, taking the fierce Stella from feisty millworker to social climber and on into middle age in a genuinely amazing performance. MGM's DVD release offers a very clean full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) from a source-print that's a little soft and grainy but, overall, impressively preserved given the film's age. The monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (in English or Spanish, with optional English, French or Spanish subtitles) is more than adequate, and equally clean and clear. Overall, a genuinely nice presentation. No extras; keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page