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Stella Dallas

Barbara Stanwyck , John Boles , King Vidor    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 63.57
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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 makes 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

Product Description

True heroines don't always save lives. Sometimes they're simply mothers, with an everlasting devotion to their children. Such is the case in Stella Dallas. Starring Barbara Stanwyck in an Academy AwardÂ(r)-nominated* performance that's "as courageous as it is fine" (The New York Times), this enduring classic is a "vivid and authentic cross-section of American life [full of] deeply moving emotional power" (The Hollywood Reporter)! Even after her marriage to well-bred Stephen Dallas (John Boles) ends, irrepressible Stella (Stanwyck) is determined to give their daughter (Anne Shirley) the life she never had. And when it comes down to her child's happiness versus her own, Stella's sacrifice is truly the epitome of bravery. *1937: Actress

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Stanwyck is the gem of this 1930s melodrama May 19 2004
By L.M.W.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of Hollywood's greatest melodramas Dec 5 2003
It's funny how, in this day and age, golden-age dramas can fall very definitely into one of two categories: ridiculous, and sublime. Happily, Barbara Stanwyck's finest hour, 'Stella Dalls', falls firmly into the second category, thanks to a wonderful performance by Ms. Stanwyck as the titular heroine.
Stella Martin is the daughter of an impoverished steel-mill family. She is ambitious, however, and when she catches the eye of the recently-broke Stephen Dallas, he pushes his feelings for his wealthy ex-girlfriend aside and makes the best of a bad situation. Unhappily married to the uncouth Stella, he spends more and more time away from her, taking only short holidays with his beloved daughter, Laurel. Stella soon realises that a mother's love cannot provide the best social advantages for Laurel, and makes the ultimate sacrifice for the good of her family.
Stanwyck's supporting cast are of a type, but they're still good - John Boles as Stephen and Barbara O' Neil as Helen Morrisson give strong performances. Alan Hale does an excellent job with the character of Ed Munn, a good-time gambler on the road to self-destruction. He plays the role with a sensitivity and pathos rare to films of this era. Anne Shirley as Laurel is cloying and sentimental, but then again, she's supposed to be.
It's Ms. Stanwyck's performance as Stella that saves this movie from mediocrity, and catapults it into the ranks of other big-league melodramas such as 'Now, Voyager' and 'Imitation of Life'. As Stella, she is perfectly capable of forcing us to empathise, and we respond in kind. Surely, hers is the ultimate sacrifice, and we are with her every step of the way.
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Format:VHS Tape
Barbara Stanwyck, although barely 30, convincingly plays the loving mother to a young adult daughter. Coming from a working-class background, the young "Stella" is determined to climb the social ladder. Her meeting with executive "Mr. Dallas" seemed to be mutual love-at-first-sight. Soon after their child, Lollie, is born, Stella's disposition changes. When hubby suggests the family move to New York to be near his business dealings, Stella flat refuses.
The action skips about 16 years, showing a grown-up Lollie, still happily living with her mother. During a visit with the father and his wealthy new wife, Lollie is showered with expensive presents, and asked to stay with them permanently. Lollie refuses, insisting that her place is with Mother.
Here is where the Kleenex moments come in: Having overheard some cruel dialogue about them while traveling with Lollie in a train compartment, Stella, unable to provide the lavish life her daughter was sure to enjoy with the father, puts on a bawdy act of meanness and cruelty, to turn the daughter away. The ultimate heartbreak is the scene of Lollie's Wedding Ceremony (which I will not devulge).
Lollie's character is basically a sweet young woman, devoted to her mother. When at an outing with her friends she denies the mother (who is making somewhat of a spectacle of herself in a drug store), my sympathy for Lollie drops significantly. The scene is reminiscent of "Imitation Of Life", where the entire story is centered around the daughter's shame for her mother. This one spoiling scene seems unnecessary in the otherwise brilliant film. Still I highly recommend "Stella Dallas" to fans of the leading lady. The original radio play is also well worth the time!****
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  54 reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars STANWYCK'S GREATEST PERFORMANCE!!!! Feb. 5 2006
By jgmein - Published on Amazon.com
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!
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stanwyck Rises Above the Suds July 8 2000
By J. Michael Click - Published on Amazon.com
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.
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Stanwyck's greatest roles and an all time favorite Sept. 5 2002
By Fernando Silva - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
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.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must see classic tear-jerker! July 11 1998
By Boots9956@aol.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
My grandmother remembered seeing this movie when it originally came out in 1937. When I started getting into Barbara Stanwyck, about a year ago, she recalled this film as being the only film she ever cried at when she was younger. Mind you that the main form of entertainment during the 30s and 40s were movies, and she saw MANY! So, to be nice, I went out and purchased a copy of the movie, and surprised her one day and we watched it. The year was 1997. She still cried. 60 YEARS LATER, the same movie she remembered as the only movie she ever cried at when she was younger, still got her the same way. Just a few weeks ago, we watched it again. Again, tears welled up in her eyes. This just goes to show the power of a brilliantly made, brilliantly acted film. And "Stella Dallas" combines both beautiful production and wonderful acting to produce one of THE BEST tear-jerkers ever made. Barbara Stanwyck as a mother who sacrifices everything for her only daughter (Anne Shirley), was nominated for an Oscar, and rightfully so! The scenes are classic, especially the final one, which I won't give away. This is a MUST SEE film..."Stella Dallas" will not disappoint you... END
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By Sean Orlosky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
"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.

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