Sunday, 9 January 2011

Old Movie Madness: Stella Dallas (1937)

OK - it is official, I have fallen completely in love with Barbara Stanwyck.  What an incredible actress.  She was capable of great comic timing, quick fire dialogue and in this role, a delicate but strong pathos.

The film begins showing the young Stella (Stanwyck) trying to catch the eye of a ruined heir, who is now running the local factory.  She has ambitions above her station and wheedles her way into his affections, resulting in marriage.  Her brashness just isn't suited to the circles he mixes in however, and the pair run into trouble just days after the birth of their daughter Laurel (Anne Shirley) when Stella wants to go dancing and falls in with a party crowd.

The pair separate with Stephen (John Boles, looking very suave) going to work away and Stella and Laurel remaining at home.  Stella loves her daughter with a passion and bring her up to be a wonderful and kind young lady.

As Laurel grows she begins to mix more in her fathers circles and falls in love with a very well off young man.  Her father has fallen back in love with an old flame but, keen to see her daughter happy, Stella agrees to them going away to live near him and the object of Laurel's affections.

Unfortunately Stella's brash personality and dress sense soon cause a stir and, not wanting her mother to realise how she is viewed by the high end folk they are with, Laurel insists they return home.  Sadly, on the journey home, Stella overhears people talking about her and she realises that for her daughter to he happy she needs to let her go.

 Stella in a brash outfit

She forces her daughter away, marrying someone she doesn't love, and whom her daughter loathes,  to push her away and allow her to live the life she always dreamt for herself.

 Tears as she watches her daughter marry

This film is possibly one of the best I have ever seen, I even put my knitting down to pay attention and that is some feat.  Stanwyck puts in a marvellous and heart wrenching performance as the working class girl helping her daughter along.  It is also refreshing to see the working classes of the period not all depicted as drunks - Stella being a firm teetotaller throughout the movie.

It is also marvellously styled, Stella's outfits are outrageous - too many bracelets, too much lace - and they contrast well with the staid classiness of her husbands social set.  Yet despite her brashness she is a kind and loving woman.

An utterly wonderful film.



  1. I love the divine Ms. Stanwyk. If you enjoyed this movie, check her out in the wonderful pre-code "Baby Face." You might have to put your knitting needles down for that one too. My husband loves her and calls her his vintage girlfriend. He likes her in "Double Indemnity." Enjoy!

  2. She's one of my favs too

  3. I have to see this movie, it looks great! :)

  4. Everywhere I go I'm seeing Barbara Stanwyck lately! I've had "Drum Boogie" as an earworm in my head since we watched Ball of Fire a couple of weeks ago. I just love her!

  5. I am so glad you enjoyed this movie, Ms Stanwyk is a true vinatge gal from head to toe, no wonder you put your knitting down.
    She is at her devine best in "Double Indemnity".

  6. Love that movie! The last scene is such a tearjerker. Huge early Stanwyck fan. Thanks for reminding me I need to re-watch this!

  7. Barbara Stanwyck gave an excellent performance. However, this movie is not only illogical, but reeks of class bigotry. Not a favorite of mine.