Quick recap: Stella marries Stephen Dallas, a former millionaire. They have a daughter together, but shortly afterwards, everything falls apart and the two separate. Stella devotes her life to Laurel, her daughter, and is willing to do anything for her happiness, even if it means giving her up and never seeing her again.
Fun (?) fact: The movie later became a radio serial that lasted for 18 years.
My thoughts: I think the most remarkable thing about Stella Dallas is that it was as hokey and sentimental as you can get, and yet I didn’t feel the need to roll my eyes at all. I don’t know, maybe I’m getting soft. I think part of this amazing feat is due to the fact that the acting was so well done, except for John Boles who basically just had to smoke his pipe and smirk at the camera. The character of Stella Dallas wasn’t my favorite, but I did love Barbara Stanwyck and her ability to make my heart break into pieces. Laurel Dallas, played by Anne Shirley also did a phenomenal job and went well above her role as ‘sad teen with a heart of gold’.
Stella Dallas was also more complicated of a story than I thought it would be. On one side, you have Stella, who hunts Stephen down and marries him, only to realize they had different goals. The synopsis I read said that Stephen tried to make Stella into someone glamorous, but considering that she sought him out after finding out that he was a former millionaire, I think this was the lifestyle she wanted. Stephen, on the other hand, wanted a family and quiet life. It was interesting how the two separated because it wasn’t some big event; they just drifted apart. I might have misunderstood some of the scenes, but it seemed to me to be a balanced view of the ending of a relationship.
I felt sorry for Stella’s character moreso than any other one in the film. She started out in a very strict household, only to move on to a man who didn’t stick around for very long. She had a great relationship with her daughter, but it was also extremely sad to see that her choices hurt Laurel. There were many sad scenes for me, but the worst was when Stella and Laurel were at the resort, and all the teens were badmouthing Stella while Laurel was within earshot. When the truth finally came out, it was devastating and led to Stella making Laurel go live with her father so she would have a better life. Her own life was a hot mess in every sense of the word and although it seems extreme by today’s standards, it really was for the best back then.
Final review: 4/5
Up next: The Big Sleep