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According to a December 1936 Hollywood Reporter news item, Mary Astor was originally cast as Helen Dallas and was to be borrowed from Columbia for the role. Hollywood Reporter production charts and news items include Lillian West, Mildred Gover and Al Shean in the cast, but their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Barbara Stanwyck received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for the film, the first nomination of her career, but, the award was won by Luise Rainer for The Good Earth. This was the first film of actress Laraine Johnson, who acted under the name Laraine Day from 1938.
Olive Higgins Prouty's story was previously filmed by Samuel Goldwyn in 1925 under Henry King's direction, starring Ronald Colman and Belle Bennett (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.5384). Modern sources note that director King Vidor followed the earlier version in many places, but cut parts of the story that dealt with character Stephen Dallas' early life. The novel also provided the source for the 1990 Touchstone film Stella, directed by John Erman, and starring Bette Midler and Stephen Collins. Stella Dallas began as a radio serial on October 25, 1937 and lasted for more than eight years. The radio serial followed the later lives of Stella, her daughter Laurel and other characters from the novel. Modern sources include Lon McCallister, Ann Doran, Harry Bowen, Dorothy Vaughan, Edythe Elliott, Paul Stanton, Francis Sayles and Frank Filban in the cast.