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SYNOPSISStella Martin (Barbara Stanwyck), the daughter of a mill worker in a factory town in 1919 Massachusetts, makes a play for and eventually marries wealthy and socially prominent mill executive Stephen Dallas (John Boles). By nature a raucous, sometimes vulgar "party girl," Stella manages to subdue her personality at first but soon, to Stephen's dismay, reverts to her old ways. After the birth of a daughter, Laurel (Anne Shirley), the couple splits and Stella takes up with her old beau, the low-class gambler Ed Munn (Alan Hale). She eventually realizes that, in order for her daughter to claim a place in society, she will have to step out of her life.
Director: King Vidor
Producers: Samuel Goldwyn, Merritt Hulburd
Screenplay: Sarah Y. Mason, Victor Heerman, from the novel by Olive Higgins Prouty
Cinematography: Rudolph Mat
Editing: Sherman Todd
Art Direction: Richard Day
Original Music: Alfred Newman
Costume Design: Omar Kiam
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Stella Dallas), John Boles (Stephen Dallas), Anne Shirley (Laurel Dallas), Barbara O'Neil (Helen Morrison), Alan Hale (Ed Munn), Marjorie Main (Mrs. Martin), George Walcott (Charlie Martin), Ann Shoemaker (Margaret Phillibrown), Tim Holt (Richard Grosvenor)
Why STELLA DALLAS Is EssentialTo understand the appeal of the so-called "woman's picture" of the 1930s and '40s, one needs look no farther than Stella Dallas, a prime example of how a first-class director, a star actress of extraordinary skills and a fine collection of technical craftsmen can elevate a sentimental story into cinematic art.
Her heart-wrenching performance as Stella elevated Barbara Stanwyck to a new level of stardom, bringing her increased stature in the film industry and the first of four Academy Award nominations as Best Actress. After 10 years and some 30 roles in movies, Stanwyck had delivered many strong performances and gained a following because of her versatility and down-to-earth acting style. But something in Stella Dallas crystallized her onscreen persona, combining what an early director had called her "rough poignancy" with flashes of earthy humor, a touch of tragedy and an exuberant energy that keeps Stella's story from becoming mere, cloying soap-opera.
In the famous ending, as Stella watches her daughter's high-society wedding through a window then strides away into the rain, she allows herself a moment of exaltation in her conviction that she has done the right thing. It's a superb bit of screen acting, capping an intense and moving performance. Many Stanwyck partisans still feel that she was more deserving of the Oscar® than the eventual winner that year, Luise Rainer for The Good Earth.
Stanwyck herself considered the self-sacrificing Stella to be her favorite part, a "once-in-a-lifetime role." She wrote that it "was a double challenge because the role had to be played on two levels, almost making Stella two separate women. On the surface she had to appear loud and flamboyant -- with a touch of vulgarity. Yet, while showing her in all her commonness, she had to be portrayed in a way that audiences would realize that beneath the surface her instincts were fine, heartwarming and noble. Part of her tragedy was that while she recognized her own shortcomings, she was unable to live up to the standards she so painstakingly set for herself." As for the dangers of the story deteriorating into simple soap opera, Stanwyck observed that "one must distinguish between sentimentality and honest sentiment."
Director King Vidor, who had made some outstanding silent films including The Big Parade (1925) and The Crowd (1928) before moving into the sound era, retained his strong visual sense and showed his sympathetic way with actors, especially females. In Stella Dallas he also drew sensitive work from Shirley, a former child star who established her position as a young adult actress with her role here, earning an Oscar® nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Stanwyck biographer Dan Callahan considers that the exuberant character actor Alan Hale, playing Ed, "gives the performance of his life as this trashy galoot." Another performance of note comes from Barbara O'Neil as Stephen's cultured second wife, who takes Laurel into her home when Stella so gallantly steps aside. (Two years later O'Neil would play another genteel character, Scarlett O'Hara's mother in Gone With the Wind, 1939.)
But it is Stanwyck who owns this film. Although other actresses have offered various incarnations of Stella Dallas over the years, this is the version that stands as the movies' definitive soap opera, with an unforgettable performance from a peerless actress.
By Roger Fristoe
Stella Dallas (1937)
Stella Dallas, because of its reputation as the prototypical soap opera, continued to live on in various incarnations after the 1923 novel, a 1924 stage production and film versions released in 1925 and 1937. The '37 version starring Barbara Stanwyck proved so popular that it inspired a radio series that began the same year as a 15-minute local show in New York City, then was picked up by NBC Radio, where it ran on weekday afternoons until 1955. The series was created and produced by the husband-and-wife team of Frank and Anne Hummert. Throughout the run Stella was played by Anne Elstner, with Stephen being variously enacted by Leo McCabe, Arthur Hughes and Frederick Tazere; Laurel by Joy Hathaway and Vivian Smolen; and Laurel's husband, Dick, by a series of actors that included Carleton Young and Macdonald Carey.
The premise of the series was explained at the opening of each show: "We give you now Stella Dallas, a continuation on the air of the true-to-life story of mother love and sacrifice, in which Stella Dallas saw her own beloved daughter marry into wealth and society and, realizing the differences in their tastes and worlds, went out of Laurel's life." Prouty was not happy with the radio show because she did not like the treatment of her characters and had not approved the sale of broadcast rights.
After the films and radio show had turned the title into household words, a home furnishings company in Dallas, Texas, capitalized upon it by naming their store Stella Dallas.
In 1990 the story was once again remade as a film, called simply Stella and starring Bette Midler in the title role. The movie, directed by John Erman, was produced through the Samuel Goldwyn Company and released by Disney's Touchstone Pictures division. Stella's daughter, now called Jenny, was played by Trini Alvarado, with Stephen Collins as Stephen and Marsha Mason as Janice Morrison. Ben Stiller and Eileen Brennan also were in the supporting cast. Midler's notices ranged from mild approval to savage criticism. In their 1995 book Bad Movies We Love, Edward Margulies and Stephen Rebello wrote of her "terrifying propensity for transforming herself into Betty Hutton, Ruth Gordon and Jerry Lewis all rolled into one." For her performance in Stella, Midler received a Razzie Award nomination as Worst Actress of 1990.
By Roger Fristoe
Stella Dallas (1937)
Ruth Chatterton's reason for turning down Barbara Stanwyck's role in the film was "because Stella was such an unpleasant character."
Stanwyck saw the silent Stella Dallas and described Belle Bennett's performance as "beautifully played."
Early in the film, as Stella and Stephen take in a movie, they are watching Bennett in a scene from the 1925 original.
After rehearsals for their emotional scene together in a train berth, Stanwyck broke the tension and cracked up the crew by kidding Anne Shirley: "All these years I spend in movies, and I have a scene in bed with someone, and who do I end up with? You! Not Clark Gable, not Gary Cooper...!"
It was Barbara O'Neil's turn to encourage Stanwyck when they did a live radio version of Stella Dallas and Stanwyck was nervous about performing before a crowd. "I told her to keep in there pitching and not to let that live audience bother her."
A few days before filming a scene set at the Santa Fe train station in Los Angeles, Stanwyck had taken a fall from a horse on her ranch and suffered heavy bruising on her legs when the horse fell partly on her body. Shirley, on board the train, lost her balance as it slowly began to move. Despite her injuries, Stanwyck ran alongside, holding on to the young actress and steadying her to keep her from falling.
In a very uncharacteristic incident, Stanwyck - who admitted to being "scared to death" of the demands of her role - "went all to pieces" during the filming of an emotional scene and had to leave the set and go home.
Censor Joseph Breen was very unhappy with a Christmas scene in Stella's apartment where Alan Hale as Ed Munn drunkenly tucks a raw goose under his arm. The scene couldn't be cut, however, because of its importance to the story.
Director Vidor, to protect his vision of the movie, "cut" it with the camera as he filmed, deciding on the set which shot would be preserved for the final cut. When it came time to assemble the picture, there were very limited choices about how everything would fit together.
After Stanwyck lost the Academy Award for Best Actress of 1937 to Luise Rainer, she said, "My life's blood was in that picture. I should have won."
After completing this project with his difficult producer, King Vidor wrote a note to himself and secured it in a desk drawer: "No more Goldwyn pictures."
The producer's comeback was a typical Goldwynism: "The trouble with directors is that they're always biting the hand that lays the golden egg."
Quotes from Stella Dallas:
"I don't want to be like me. I want to be like the people in the movies, everything well-bred and refined." -- Stella
"I've always been known to have stacks of style!" - Stella
"How would it do for you to do a little of the adapting, Stephen, a little of the giving up?" - Stella
(Of Stephen:) "What is he -- an undertaker?" -- Ed Munn
"There's not a man living that could get me going anymore. Lollie [her nickname for daughter Laurel] just uses up all the feeling I got. I don't seem to have any left for anyone else." - Stella
(To Laurel:) "You're here with Mummy and nobody in the whole world is going to take you away. Nobody. Nobody." -- Stella
"Isn't it weird to have such a common-looking thing for a mother?" -- Girl on train
Compiled by Roger Fristoe
Stella Dallas (1937)
Stella Dallas, the ultimate story of self-sacrificing mother love, began as a 1923 novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, a novelist/poet from Massachusetts who had written the book in a raw emotional state after suffering the death of two very young daughters within a period of three years. She was inspired to create the plot after overhearing a conversation at a Boston dinner party about a man who had married a woman "beyond the pale socially," had a daughter by her and then separated from his family, taking custody of the girl only one month a year. For Prouty, the novel was never really about "mother love" but rather the plight of a sensitive child with separated parents of contrasting backgrounds, and a woman who refuses to be constrained by society and its ideas of how she should behave.
The novel was serialized in 1922 in The American Magazine before its publication in 1923 by Houghton Mifflin Company. The year after its publication it was adapted into a stage play by Gertrude Purcell and Harry Wagstaff Gribble that was first produced in New Haven, Conn., starring an actress who billed herself as Mrs. Leslie Carter as Stella, with a young Edward G. Robinson in the supporting cast. Prouty did not approve of the "coarse" performance of the 70-year-old Mrs. Carter, and called the play "a mess." The production never made it to Broadway. In 1925 the Samuel Goldwyn Company produced a silent film version of the story from a screenplay by Frances Marion, with Belle Bennett as Stella, burgeoning matinee idol Ronald Colman as her husband Stephen, Lois Moran as their daughter, Jean Hersholt as Stella's uncouth friend Ed Munn and a very young Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as the daughter's beau.
Before choosing Bennett, Goldwyn claimed to have tested 75 actresses in his search for the perfect Stella, including the legendary Laurette Taylor. A yeoman performer who had acted in some 45 films including two produced by Goldwyn, Bennett had plugged away without ever getting the role she thought could "make" her career. She felt this was it -- "what I have been waiting for all my life," as she wrote to a friend. As it turned out, Stella was for her the role of a lifetime; she died seven years after the film's release, when she was only 41. The film was also important in Colman's rise to prominence, and offered Fairbanks his first adult part.
The silent film created a sensation, being enthusiastically received by both audiences and critics. Mordaunt Hall wrote in The New York Times of the film's "powerful appeal" and the "masterly" direction of Henry King. He had special praise for Bennett, calling hers a "memorable performance, one which is rarely seen on the screen." A Variety reviewer deemed both Bennett and Moran to be "magnificent" in their roles.
For the 1937 remake, Goldwyn chose the illustrious director King Vidor, who by this time had been Oscar®-nominated three times as Best Director, for The Crowd (1928), Hallelujah! (1929) and The Champ (1931). To find his new Stella, Goldwyn mounted an even bigger talent search than for the silent version, one that Barbara Stanwyck later compared to David O. Selznick's efforts to find his ideal Scarlett O'Hara. Like Selznick, Vidor considered using a complete unknown - but then he narrowed the field to three seasoned actresses: Gladys George, Ruth Chatterton (who actually was offered the role and turned it down) and radio star Bernadine Hayes. Miriam Hopkins also was interested enough to test. But Stanwyck - who had studied the novel and desperately wanted the role of Stella - had a friend in the Goldwyn camp in Joel McCrea, with whom she had already costarred in three movies. McCrea, who had been under contract to Goldwyn for five years, was the producer's golden boy at the time, making successful films for him and also earning a small fortune in loan-outs to other studios.
McCrea made a pitch for Stanwyck with his boss, trying to argue down Goldwyn's complaints that she was too young for the part, lacked sex appeal and had no experience with children. The actor also went to the movie's director, King Vidor, and asked how he felt about Stanwyck being cast. Vidor, who had been impressed by her work in other films, said he wanted her but that Goldwyn would only consider her if she agreed to test for the role. Stanwyck, burned by unpleasant experiences in making screen tests early in her career, wanted no part of that. "Listen, honey," she said to McCrea, "if they want me they know what I can do. If I'm not good enough, to hell with them, let them get who they want!"
At last, however, she relented and did a test with Anne Shirley, who also had yet to be cast as Laurel. The scene was the birthday party where mother and daughter wait forlornly for guests who never show up because everyone has been turned off by Stella's vulgar ways. As it happened, both actresses had colds on the day of the test, with Stanwyck suffering from a runny nose and a temperature of 102 degrees. Vidor worked on the test all day as opposed to the usual few hours, and the results were splendid. After Goldwyn had highlights from 48 different tests edited into one reel, the choice for Stella was obvious. In Vidor's words, "Stanwyck's test was undeniable. She put everyone else to shame." Goldwyn had his Stella.
The movie's screenplay was written by Sarah Y. Mason and Victor Heerman, whose other collaborations included the Katharine Hepburn vehicle Little Women (1933) and the Robert Taylor film Magnificent Obsession (1935). Chosen as cinematographer was Rudolph Mat, who had photographed Stanwyck in A Message to Garcia (1936) and would later direct her in The Violent Men (1955). Along with Stanwyck and Shirley, who was chosen over Bonita Granville and Frances Farmer, the cast would include John Boles, who played Victor Moritz in the original 1931 Frankenstein; Barbara O'Neil, who had won out over Mary Astor, then embroiled in scandals in her personal life; and Alan Hale, whose roles included that of Little John in several Robin Hood films. Marjorie Main, later to win fame as Ma Kettle, was cast as Stella's rough-hewn mother, and future star Laraine Day (then Laraine Johnson) would make her uncredited film debut in a bit part at a soda fountain.
By Roger Fristoe
Stella Dallas (1937)
Filming of Stella Dallas began in early 1937 at the Goldwyn Studios in Santa Monica, Calif. Vidor was convinced that it was going to be a fine film: "We had a good cast, great photography and everything seemed to work well." But, early in the production, he was called into Goldwyn's office and told by his producer that he had just seen the daily rushes and was so dismayed by them that he was ready to fire everyone involved and cancel the project. Vidor went home, so shocked and upset that he couldn't eat or sleep that evening. About 1 a.m. Goldwyn phoned him to say that he had just run the rushes again and "they look wonderful." He then bade his director a good night.
Vidor, whose career had flourished in silent movies, chose to film some scenes in Stella Dallas without dialogue, such as a tender moment after Laurel has become upset with her mother for dripping cold cream on a treasured photograph of her father's new love interest, Mrs. Morrison (Barbara O'Neil). The rebuked Stella begins to touch up the dark roots of her blonde hair and Laurel, ashamed at her outburst, silently takes over the bleaching stick and proceeds to gently do the job herself. An even more moving silent sequence occurs in a train berth after both women have heard some catty girls ridiculing Stella's appearance and Laurel crawls into bed with her mother, comforting her by curling up wordlessly beside her. The famous final scene, when Stella walks away from her daughter's wedding happy in the knowledge that she has a good life ahead, also was filmed mostly without dialogue.
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.
Shirley, who had grown up making movies and celebrated her 18th birthday during the filming of Stella Dallas, felt that Vidor was ignoring her and not offering any direction. She finally made an appointment to see Goldwyn and tearfully informed him that she felt unwanted in the role and should be replaced. Goldwyn phoned Vidor to say, "I don't care what you tell the kid. Tell her she's lousy if she's great or great if she's lousy. Tell her any damn thing you please. I just can't cope with hysterical females and I don't want to be bothered again!"
The beginning of filming had been delayed because of a makeup artists' and hairdressers' strike by their unions to win recognition of the studios as a guild shop, and there was only a skeleton crew to groom the actors. O'Neil, who was making her film debut in Stella Dallas after years on the stage, was particularly upset by having to cross picket lines and be made up behind drawn curtains by Bob Stephanoff, head of the United Artists makeup department. Rattled by this experience and uncertain about film acting, O'Neil often arrived on the set for her scenes feeling very unsure of herself. Aware of her discomfort, Stanwyck visited O'Neill in her dressing room to offer encouragement. O'Neill would later recall her as "a marvelous, warm-hearted person. I knew it while working with her, and - recently watching a rerun of Stella Dallas - I understood the depth and strength of her work."
As always on the set, Stanwyck was the ultimate pro, as recalled by Shirley: "She was prepared to the very top of her ability. Dialogue learned perfectly. Hair, clothes, energy ready." Of his working relationship with Stanwyck, Vidor had this to say: "Where sympathy exists and respect exists between director and actress, it cuts out a lot of talk, and certainly no arguments are necessary, and they fulfill their parts... I think it's a question of love. I think if love exists - admiration - love exists between director and actress, which I felt - I felt a deep feeling of love - it's like a family functioning. It's like a husband and wife functioning." Stanwyck's evaluation of their working relationship was more pragmatic: "King did his job, and I did mine."
By Roger Fristoe
Stella Dallas (1937)
Prior to Joan Crawford's star turn as the ultimate in self-sacrificing mother in Mildred Pierce (1945), there was no better martyr for motherhood than Stella Dallas, the tragic heroine of Olive Higgins Prouty's novel which inspired several film versions. When Samuel Goldwyn announced plans to re-make his classic 1925 silent film with Barbara Stanwyck in the role, most of his contemporaries laughed, believing the story would be hopelessly out of date. Instead, Goldwyn scored a box office bonanza with Stanwyck delivering a powerhouse performance as a single mother who drives her daughter away so the girl can find a better life.
Prouty's novel, Stella Dallas, had been a best seller in the '20s, whenGoldwyn bought the screen rights for a then-impressive $15,000. The storywas quite timely in its day, dealing with the rise of divorce in Americanlife and the growing prevalence of single-parent homes. With Henry Kingdirecting a cast headed by Belle Bennett as Stella, newcomer Lois Moran asher daughter and Goldwyn contract star Ronald Colman as her estrangedhusband, the film was a smash. In fact, it grossed more than any otherGoldwyn silent and helped build his reputation as a producer of qualityfilms.
When Goldwyn scored a hit with a 1935 re-make of his silent tear-jerkerThe Dark Angel, he decided to create a new version of his biggestsilent success. And though most of Hollywood predicted the re-make wouldfail, almost every actress in town was fighting for the title role.Goldwyn was leaning toward Ruth Chatterton, who had made a major comebackas the shrewish wife in his production of Dodsworth in 1936. Aslong as William Wyler was slated to direct the film, she had the insidetrack. But when Goldwyn realized that Wyler's work on loan to Warner Bros.for Jezebel (1938) would drag on longer than anticipated, he hired KingVidor instead. Although he had never worked with Stanwyck, Vidor felt thesimple realism she'd mastered working with such directors as Frank Capraand William Wellman would keep the story fresh and contemporary. He had anally in Joel McCrea, a frequent Stanwyck co-star, to whom she had appealedfor help in landing the role.
But when McCrea tried to convince Goldwyn she was perfect, he objected thatStanwyck had no sex appeal. McCrea pointed out that Robert Taylor, one ofthe handsomest men in movies, obviously didn't think so; he had been hersteady date for some time. Finally, Goldwyn agreed to meet Stanwyck, onlyto tell her he didn't think she had sufficient experience with motherhood.Although she had an adopted son, she had to admit that she had neversuffered over a child. "But I can imagine how it would be," she quicklyadded (recounted in Stanwyck by Axel Madsen). That convinced Goldwyn to ask her totest for the role. Though such a move was unprecedented at the time for astar of her caliber, she agreed.
By that point, RKO starlet Anne Shirley had been cast as Stella's daughter,so she joined Stanwyck. They tested with the birthday scene, in whichplans to throw a lavish birthday party for her daughter are ruined whennone of the guests show up, forbidden to attend because of the mother'sscandalous behavior. After screening the test once, Goldwyn realizedStanwyck was perfect for the role.
During shooting, Stanwyck and Shirley were frustrated by Vidor's lack ofdirection. He seemed more interested in camera angles than in theirperformances. Stanwyck at least had the experience to develop theperformance on her own, She drew on memories of Belle Bennett's silentperformance and her own concept of a character whose surface commonnessmasked a warm and generous heart. Shirley, however, felt lost. Finally,she complained to Goldwyn, bursting into tears during their meeting.Goldwyn reassured her kindly, but as soon as she left he called Vidor. "Idon't care what you tell the kid," he screamed. "Tell her she'slousy if she's great or great if she's lousy. Tell her any damn thing youplease. I just can't cope with hysterical females, and I don't want to bebothered again." (from The RKO Gals by James Robert Parish).
For his part, Vidor hated working with Goldwyn. He couldn't take themercurial producer's temperamental outbursts and sudden mood shifts.Goldwyn would turn up on the set, screaming at everyone that the rusheswere the worst he had ever seen, then call Vidor that night to apologizebecause he'd watched them again and realized he was wrong. When thedirector finished shooting, he posted a sign over his desk reading, "NOMORE GOLDWYN PICTURES!"
But once the picture opened to rave reviews and a strong box office all the frustrations and headaches experienced on the Stella Dallas set were forgotten. Stanwyck waspraised for her no-holds-barred performance and her decision to foregomakeup for some of her character's older scenes. Other critics hailedShirley's unexpected depth in the role and insisted that she had stolen thepicture. And everyone agreed that Vidor had kept the old fashioned storyfrom drowning in bathos. Both Stanwyck and Shirley were nominated forOscars®. Though she would score three more Best Actress nominationswithout ever winning, Stanwyck would always regret her loss for StellaDallas the most, feeling that it was her best work.
Vidor would stay true to his vow never to work for Goldwyn again, butStanwyck, who admired the producer's commitment to quality, would be happyto return to his studios for a change-of-pace comedy role in Ball ofFire four years later. The success of Stella Dallas inspired along-running radio serial about the further adventures of Stella, as shecontinued to fight for her daughter's happiness. It would also inspire onemore re-make, Stella, with Bette Midler in the title role, StephenCollins as her husband and Trini Alvarado as their daughter. By the timethis version came out in 1990, however, the story really was hopelessly outof date. It was the only film version of Prouty's novel to fail at the boxoffice and even brought Midler a Razzie nomination as Worst Actress of theYear.
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Director: King Vidor
Screenplay: Sarah Y. Mason, Victor Heerman
Based on the Novel by Olive Higgins Prouty and the Play by Harry WagstaffGribble and Gertrude Purcell
Cinematography: Rudolph Mate
Art Direction: Richard Day
Music: Alfred Newman
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Stella Dallas), John Boles (StephenDallas), Anne Shirley (Laurel Dallas), Barbara O'Neil (Helen Morrison),Alan Hale (Ed Munn), Marjorie Main (Mrs. Martin), Tim Holt (RichardGrosvenor).
BW-106m. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
Stella Dallas (1937)
"Miss Stanwyck's portrayal is as courageous as it is fine. Ignoring the flattery of makeup man and camera, she plays Stella as Mrs. Prouty drew her -- coarse, cheap, common, given to sleazy dresses, to undulations in her walk, to (with the aid of pads and extra layers of this and that) fatty degeneration of the profile. And yet magnificent as a mother." -- The New York Times
"If only to view Barbara Stanwyck's dramatic triumph as Stella Dallas, this picture should be seen. Playing this emotional mother role with power, understanding and restraint, she gives her best performance yet." -- Film Daily
"[Stanwyck's] Stella is more restrained and credible than Belle Bennett's in the silent version. She gives an underlying strength to a weak, fatuous woman that makes the portrayal vividly sympathetic and lends needed motivation to the tale. It is her best acting in years." -- New York Herald Tribune
"Barbara Stanwyck gives the best performance of her cinema career... Her pathetic moments are handsomely pointed up by underplaying of a kind she has never delivered heretofore. The picture is her vehicle throughout and the star comes through in every scene." -- Brooklyn Daily Eagle
"It is a notable personal triumph for one of the few really great directors of the screen." -- New York Herald Tribune
"Having always felt that Miss Stanwyck would prove herself one of the screen's finest actresses if given half a chance, this department is happy to report that in Stella Dallas she turns in a sensitive, beautifully shaded characterization and that there are moments of uncommon beauty in her playing." -- New York World Telegram
"Sneer if you will at the sentiment which is here. You will have to admit that Barbara Stanwyck as Stella Dallas is truly superb." -- The Daily Sketch (London)
"Stella Dallas is a formula film, a corny soap opera, manipulative as hell -- but it's done right. The movie isn't dated because Vidor went at his material with sincerity, affection and talent and because his star, Barbara Stanwyck, did the same." -- Frank Rich, The New York Times (in 1975)
"The picture is all Stanwyck's, and worth seeing for her brassy, touching, all-out performance (possibly her greatest), even if pictures about maternal love and self-sacrifice give you the heebie-jeebies." -- Pauline Kael (in 1982)
Awards and Honors -- STELLA DALLAS
Academy Award nominations: Best Actress (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Supporting Actress (Anne Shirley)
Compiled by Roger Fristoe