Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Viewing: Stella Dallas, 1937

Based on the 1923 novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, the 1937 film version of Stella Dallasis considered the quintessential story of motherly sacrifice and is often aired on Mother’s Day.

Directed by King Vidor and produced by Samuel Goldwyn for Metro, the film stars Barbara Stanwyck in the title role with John Boles and Anne Shirley, earning a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Stanwyck.

The film, set initially after the First World War, follows the life of the daughter of a Massachusetts mill-worker. Stella has a taste for fine and fast living and ambitions to lead a better, if not more exciting, life. At the mill, Stella meets executive Stephen Dallas who has troubles of his own. His father, after losing the family fortune, has committed suicide and he takes comfort in the wild Stella despite the fact that he vows to marry his fiancée after regaining his fortune.

Realizing that his fiancée has moved on and married another person, Stephen marries Stella and they have a daughter, Laurel. Stella still has a hankering for her party life, but finds she has a surprisingly maternal side as well. Soon, she’s pushing her own social-climbing ways onto Laurel. As Stephen grows more disgusted by Stella’s behavior, he finds he has a job opportunity in New York. Stella and Stephen separate and Stella retains custody of their daughter.

A long illness and embarrassing social situations make Stella wonder if she is able to give her daughter the life she feels she deserves. Soon, Stella is forced to make a difficult decision for the good of her child.

A popular favorite, the film is filled with excellent performances and is the perfect accompaniment to your Mother’s Day celebration.

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