Barbara Stanwyck gave one of her inimitable and wonderfully enigmatic performances as a mill worker who marries her way into high society and soon experiences layers of frustration. Channeling her restlessness, she soon ma... more »kes a positive though highly self-sacrificial decision on her daughter's behalf, and endures the agony of being replaced in her husband's life by an old, blue-blooded flame. King Vidor (The Crowd) directs with a fascinating sense of duality about Stanwyck's character: is her lower-caste vulgarity something to sneer at or something to applaud for the contrast she presents to the mannered upper classes? Stanwyck plays the riddle brilliantly, right down to the final moment of her character's weird self-satisfaction at being ostracized from her daughter's honeyed life. --Tom Keogh« less
One of Stanwyck's greatest roles and an all time favorite
Fernando Silva | Santiago de Chile. | 09/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tearjerker supreme, with a top-notch performance by Barbara Stanwyck, who impersonates and gives true life to coarse, low class, self-effacing Stella Dallas, "mother above all". This is one of the greatest and strongest dramatic performances ever achieved on the screen by an American actress.Stanwyck plays an ambitious girl of humble origins, who falls in love and marries recently impoverished aristocratic Boles (Stephen Dallas), whose social differences eventually separate them. She raises their little child, Laurel, suffering, crying and sacrificing herself for her daughter's sake, from then onwards. John Boles is quite effective, but, as usual, lacks punch as Stephen Dallas. On the other hand, Anne Shirley is believable and very good as grown-up Laurel. Alan Hale is simply incredible and the epitome of vulgarity, as lowbrow and ever-partying Ed Munn; and Barbara O'Neil (future Scarlett O'Hara's mother) is rightly patrician, well-bred and classy, as Boles' old-time fiancée and friend.In spite of its 30's ultrasentimentality by today's standards, absolutely recommended viewing. The DVD quality is good indeed."
Stanwyck Rises Above the Suds
J. Michael Click | Fort Worth, Texas United States | 07/08/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sure, the script is 99.44% pure soap opera, and no, it hasn't aged particularly well. But "Stella Dallas" remains watchable thanks to the tour de force performance given by Barbara Stanwyck in the title role. Encumbered by some overly sentimental dialogue and weighed down by poor costuming choices that threaten to make her character seem ludicrous rather than pathetic or garish, Stanwyck overcomes all obstacles by investing her every scene with a disarming sincerity and heartfelt honesty. She rises far above the script; indeed, some of her finest moments are those in which she says not a word (her painful self-realization in the train berth; her barely controlled suffering as she deliberately goads her daughter into rejecting her; and of course, the famous ending shot in which she strides triumphantly into the night). Stanwyck is beautifully abetted by Anne Shirley in an Oscar-nominated supporting performance, and Alan Hale and Barbara O'Neil also shine. But this is Stanwyck's movie all the way, and she alone holds it together and makes it work.The DVD transfer is far from perfect. There is a lot of "video noise" throughout the movie, and the contrast often seems lacking. There is no theatrical trailer or stills gallery; the only bonus is a cast and crew filmography that is prone to error and omissions: Stanwyck was NOT Oscar-nominated for "The Lady Eve" in 1941 as indicated; her four Best Actress races were in 1937 ("Stella Dallas"), 1941 ("Ball of Fire"), 1944 ("Double Indemnity"), and 1948 ("Sorry, Wrong Number"). Still, this DVD is an improvement over the VHS release, and a must-have for fans of the incomparable Stanwyck."
STANWYCK'S GREATEST PERFORMANCE!!!!
jgmein | indianapolis, in | 02/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I read a magazine article once where the writer said Stanwyck was not an actress with the range of Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn. With all due respect to Davis and Hepburn, Stanwyck could act rings around them. She was far more versatile than either of them (playing villainesses, comedy, drama and musicals with equal finesse) and was never hammy as Bette Davis was with her popping eyes, neck wringing and clipped speech or mannered as Katharine Hepburn was with her high patrician attitude and twittering, voice. Stella Dallas simply attests to this fact. There are so many facets to Stanwyck's portrayal and so many memorable scenes that rival the best any actress in Hollywood had to offer. 1) The scene on the train with Anne Shirley where she pretends to be asleep after overhearing her daughter's friends degrade Stella, 2) the farewell at the train station where she send Laurel (Anne Shirley) to her father), 3) the scene at the Mirador Hotel where she steps out in bangles and beads and a loud dress and she is mimicked by some young boys (that ain't a woman, that's a Christmas tree), 4) the scene where Stella is attempting to get rid of Ed Munn with a plucked turkey stuffed in the oven, 5) the birthday party scene with Laurel where nobody comes, 6) the scene where she pretends she doesn't love Laurel and tells her she wants to marry Ed Munn, 7) the scene where she sacrifices Laurel to Stephen Dallas' new wife (played by Barbara O'Neil) and last but not least, the now classic scene where she watches Laurel's wedding outside in the rain and emerges triumphant knowing that Laurel will have the life she never could. Top all of this with a great supporting cast, an excellent script and an unforgettable musical score and you have Stanwyck's best movie and Hollywood magic of 1937!"
Stanwyck is the gem of this 1930s melodrama
L. W. Barnes | Alabama, United States | 05/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As other reviewers have said, "Stella Dallas" is a highly sentimental, soap-operaish 1930s movie. But it's still a good film, despite that fact that many aspects of the plot and characterization are dated. Barbara Stanwyck is the gem of this film, and she gives the most convincing performance (except for Alan Hale, her drunken friend, Ed). The movie begins with Stella, a girl from a working-class mill family, who dreams of marriage to Stephen Dallas, a well-to-do mill executive. With all the charm she can muster, Stella walks into Stephen's office at a crucial point in his life: he is in despair. She revives him, and the two are married within two weeks. What follows is rather predictable: the marriage was a mistake. Stephen's upper class society of manners and Stella's burning desire to experience the passion and wealth of life are sorely incompatible. After the birth of their daughter, Laurel, they part ways: he lives in New York, and she stays in Boston with their daughter. However, they do not divorce for nearly 15 years. Stella raises Laurel, and Stephen takes the child on vacations often. As Laurel grows older, it is obvious that her intellect and mannerisms mirror her father, and not her working-class, garish mother. Despite the fact that Laurel is essentially the only person or thing that Stella loves, Stella contrives a plot to deceive Laurel so that the teenage girl will willingly go live with her father, his new, beautiful, wealthy wife, and her three sons in a New York mansion. Stanwyck's acting is superb, one of the best in her career. She convincingly portrays a woman who is trapped in her lower-class social status, but desperately reaches for money and associations with the "right people." Anne Shirley, who plays Laurel in her teen years, seems to overact at times, but she delivers a top-notch performance as an innocent, wholesome teen torn between her separated parents. John Boles' performance is stiff and restrained, as usual, and his character is very flat (but it's supposed to be). Barbara O'Neil earns the audience's respect as the only person who genuinely understands Stella. And Alan Hale is brilliant as the crass, drunken, party-animal Ed Munn, and Stella simply can't resist his zest for life (at least initially). Although the film is encumbered with overly sentimental dialogue and a bit of overacting, it's a pretty good 1930s melodrama."
A GREAT DRAMA! STANWYCK GIVES A TOUR-DE-FORCE PERFORMANCE!
Sean Orlosky | Yorktown, IN United States | 12/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Stella Dallas" is an extraordinary emotional rollercoaster of a movie, and a must-see for fans of the legendary Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck is Stella Martin, a tough cookie mill girl who steps up in class by marrying the wealthy Stephen Dallas (John Boles). They have a daughter, Laurel (Anne Shirley), whom Stella lavishes love on. But although Stella has a heart of gold, her coarse manners and unrefined taste are looked down upon by society. Stella won't have her daughter looked down on, too, and in securing her daughter's future happiness, Stella realizes that she must make a sacrifice greater than any she could ever make...Stanwyck walks off with the picture, absolutely perfect as Stella (Stanwyck, I believe, REALLY should have won the Oscar she was nominated for for this film). Anne Shirley is just a tad overly enthusiastic as Laurel, but she is also sincere and honest in her Oscar-nominated performance. John Boles is- fair in his relatively small role. Barbara O'Neil is excellent as Helen Morrison, a kind-hearted friend of Stephen Dallas. Alan Hale is perfectly vulgar in his meaty role of Ed Munn, a coarse friend of Stella's. The film has a sensitive but wrenching screenplay which calls for handkerchiefs in many scenes: (One scene has Stella and Laurel waiting for children to come to Laurel's birthday party who never come because of Stella's notoriety, a scene in which Stella overhears Laurel's friends talking about her with snide remarks, and the final, heartbreaking scene...) King Vidor's direction rounds out the exquisite drama and makes "Stella Dallas" one of the most powerful dramatic masterpieces of all time."