Stella Dallas - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Stella Dallas Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 16, 2009
Stanwyck was marvelous as Stella Dallas. A role and character that is perfectly matched with Stanwycks loose and and natural way of acting.
In an environment where social status dictates modest and appropriate behavior, Stella quickly stands out with her bubbly, impulsive and spontaneous personality. This is also a movie about the love and friendship between a mother and her daughter.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
June 27, 2011
Poor Stella. All she wanted was to fool a rich man into marrying her, so that he might give her the kind of extravagant lifestyle she always knew she deserved. Ordinarily, this would be the happy ending of most of the films from this time period, but in director King Vidor's "Stella Dallas", it's only the beginning of the tale because, what comes after you trick the rich guy into marrying you? Do you maintain your well-crafted ruse, or do you let him see the real you? Do you make any effort to fit into his high social standings, or do you revert to the same old slob you've always been? After Stella (Barbara Stanwyck) marrys the wealthy Mr. Dallas (John Boles), and the two have a child, she decides she wants to have her cake and eat it too. She expects love and admiration from her husband without giving him any love or doing anything admirable; she wants to be a member of high society but has no interest in adapting to it or learning simple good social graces. In fact, the longer the marriage goes on, the less effort Stella puts into it. It's no wonder Mr. Dallas takes that position in New York that keeps him away from home for so much of the year.

Their daughter Laurel, is the one thing they see eye-to-eye on. Both agree she needs to be raised as a refined and educated lady. But is that really what Stella wants? Stella comes to depend on Laurel to fulfill all her emotional needs, and that seems like a lot of pressure to put on your child. What happens when Laurel starts living a life that doesn't include mother? "Stella Dallas" is an unusual film for it's time and would certainly be an odd film today. An aimless character like Stella lives an aimless life and in the end doesn't really have anything to show for it. It's a sort of just-comeuppance for someone who isn't really that bad a person (and actually by most standards, is a wonderful, self-sacrificing woman) masquerading as a hard-suffering "woman done wrong"- type of story. There's quite a lot of depth to this film, if one knows what they're looking at.
Super Reviewer
½ July 21, 2007
Barbara Stanwyck was amazing in Stella Dallas. She mastered tacky and grotesque magnificently, all the way from her "weight gain" to the final scene. The story didn't blow me away until the last 20 minutes but Stanwyck did such a great job at making you feel more and more uncomfortable in each of her scenes as the movie went on. Stella Dallas is a less nasty Of Human Bondage and a more likable Mildred Pierce, but for as more likable as the main character is in Stella Dallas, the ending did more of a number on me emotionally at the end. Stella Dallas is worth watching for Stanwyck alone, but for as... upsetting as the movie got by the end it falls into only-need-to-see-this-once territory, despite how good it is.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
This was a really good drama, it's sad too. Stanwyk gives a great performance.
Super Reviewer
½ April 17, 2007
Barbara is heartbreakingly good in this, the last scene is some of the best screen acting ever. The film's style is antiquated however.
Super Reviewer
April 10, 2014
This type of film which depicts a woman who doesn't quite measure up to the social status of her man is too often the subject of films but Stanwyck's abilities make this a unique and rewarding offering.
Super Reviewer
½ May 11, 2011
It is interesting to note that, according to Robert Osborne, Barbara Stanwyck had to really fight for this role. After watching her in this role, I can't imagine anyone else in it.
Super Reviewer
October 10, 2008
Although the first few minutes has a cheesy love story, the film picks up itself with some very interesting moments and subject concerning the high class. Of course, Barbara Stanwyck great performance gives a lot of energy and attitude to the film.
½ March 2, 2014
Too melodramatic for its own good. Maybe I missed something, but there's no need for the histrionics Stanwyck's character goes through. Her split from her husband just seems bull-headed - they seemed fine enough together but for some reason she won't move with him which would have probably saved their marriage. Also the lengths she goes to let her daughter go near the end is way overblown and unnecessary.
½ June 6, 2011
Yeah, Barbara Stanwyck is the life of this party and puts on a hell of a show. My only problem is the character herself digs her own social grave. She's almost cartoonishly ignorant, but Stanwyck plays it off so well she makes it as believable as anyone could. By the time she figures things out the hard way, I found it difficult to feel bad, even though that is what the music seemed to be telling me.
½ October 15, 2007
Barbara Stanwyck gives a sensational performance as the horribly common but magnificently fine sacrificing mother.
One of the great melodramas, "Stella Dallas" is like a non-noirish "Mildred Pierce"--except her daughter isn't such a venomous little bitch. However, when the daughter elevates to higher society thanks to the money Stella was able to get from her philandering husband, she becomes ashamed of her mother after her rich friends unknowingly criticize Stella in front of her daughter. She's not as powdered-sugar sweet as one originally assumes her to be and I actually ended up disliking her somewhat. But of course, the whole thing is really Stanwyck's show and proof that she was one of the best actresses to ever grace the silver screen.
½ April 19, 2007
This was a great movie about a woman who wants to be a social climber but just dosent have good breeding and quits trying to better herself, It was unexpected for her to fall so far. . You start out liking the character and go back and forth on that. She is a good and loving mother. In the end she makes the ultimate sacrifice. Stanwyck makes the character a little over the top until the end where you really see the inner feelings that the character is harboring.
June 26, 2007
This is an incredibly moving piece of work and includes remarkable performances by Barbara Stanwyck, Anne Shirley, and Barbara O'Neill.
May 10, 2014
"I've always been known to have a stack of style! "

Note: This review will contain some spoilers.

I never thought I'd ever do this to an old film, but this is likely the first time I've ever given a so-called classic the dreaded 0% rating. To be honest, I rarely give films a 0% rating, only if the film is truly what I consider to be absolute torture to watch, which is why I've given the rating to films like Dragonball: Evolution, Jurassic Park 3, and Weekend at Bernie's. Why do I hate Stella Dallas, you ask, considering the fact that I had never heard of the film and I've enjoyed past films starring the great Barbara Stanwyck? My review now.

Stella Martin (Barbara Stanwyck) is a poor, filthy, and vulgar factory-town girl who falls for the wealthy Stephen Dallas (John Boles) and instantly marries him after two minutes of screen time (first sign that the film is going to be horrible). As we learn in Frozen, where you never marry someone after just meeting that person, the two start to hate each other over social conflicts, and especially over the path in raising their child. Stephen leaves for New York and starts to fall for the wealthy Helen Morrison (Barbara O'Neil). Stella struggles to fit in with social life, passing her and her daughter Laurel (Anne Shirley) as rich women, and sending her off to a wealthy school. But Stella believes that she's not doing enough for her daughter, and plots a way to get rid of her for good.

I watched this film on my favorite TCM program (The Essentials), and was curious about the film from the beginning, as I've never seen a film from acclaimed director King Vidor, and hearing that Stanwyck believed this to be her favorite role in her career. I have never disagreed so far from a "classic" in my life! To quote the late, great Roger Ebert, "I hate this film. I hate hate hate this film!"

What's wrong with the film, the story. Supposedly this story has been told countless of times and this version is supposed to the best, but if this is the best version, then I don't want to know how the story is told in other versions. Stella Dallas is one of the most annoying, stupid, and obnoxious characters I've seen in a motion picture! Look at all the stupid, easy mistakes she makes in this movie! She causes hatred with her husband cause she gives her baby girl bourbon, having a relationship with an old, mentally drunken idiot who pranks people with itching powder and argues over the perfect turkey, passes herself off as a rich woman by making her own clothes, and embarrassing herself in the process. Even worse is that after realizing her mistakes, she has some sense of regret and wants to get rid of her kid. (SPOLIER ALERT) The film ends where she alienates herself with her girl so much that she ends up staying with the father and his new wife. The daughter eventually marries, and Stella watches it outside from the window, and the film ends where she leaves smiling, leaving an implication that she never cared for her child in the first place. WHAT KIND OF MESSAGE DOES THIS BRING TO HARD-WORKING MOTHERS ALL OVER THE WORLD? Basically, what I got out of the film is that when your mother makes a simple mistake, life will be much, simpler if they get rid of you forever. If I was a mother dedicating in raising my children (which is a freaky imagination I'm making, I know), then I would surely get offended at the message it's making. (END OF SPOILERS) I don't blame Stanwyck for doing a poor job in the role, but King Vidor does a terrible job at creating a terrible character that no one would root for.

Even the other actors involved in the film do poor jobs in their roles. I would root for John Poles, who plays the smart rich husband who abandons Stella early on, but Boles is extremely bland in a truly annoying motion picture. Alan Hale is absolutely horrific as Ed Munn the old, mental idiot who flirts with Stella throughout the picture. When the film turns into juvenile comedy where the two disagree over a turkey for Christmas, I almost lost it in Hulk anger. But what could be worse than Stella? The daughter, played annoyingly by Anne Shirley. I had never seen Shirley in a film before, and I can't really criticize her for it, but Laurel Dallas is just way too obnoxious, about as stupid as Stella I might add. Sure she has some common sense in the end, but I wasn't impressed.

Again, I have never disagreed with a so-called "essential" with Robert Osborne this much in my life! I absolutely hated this pathetic excuse of a movie. Stella Dallas has a very annoying soap-operay plot that has the appeal of Young and the Restless fans, the characters are either obnoxious, bland, or unsympathetic that you want to just want to throw the TV remote in HULK ANGER, and King Vidor's direction is lazy. If this is the best Vidor has to offer, then I have a feeling that King Vidor is an overrated filmmaker.
May 12, 2013
Both for herself and, more, for her daughter, Stella gains entree into a world she can't navigate. Eventually she sacrifices her place in the family for her daughter's benefit. Heartbreaking.
½ April 10, 2013
Moving tale about how a parent's love can drive them to extreme behaviors. One of the best examples of a bittersweet, tear-jerker ending. Stanwyck & Shirley were both nominated for an Oscar - I'm surprised this film didn't have more nominations.
½ October 14, 2012
An excellent romance drama.
August 9, 2012
The plot is a little too contrived at times, but when it hits its emotional beats, it's utterly devastating. A deeply flawed film that achieves some great things along the way.
July 15, 2011
Tears will flow as Ms Stanwyck (one of Hollywood's truly under appreciated stars, at least as far as the Academy was concerned.) first draws you in with a gut turning display of loutishness, but then twists the knife with its gut-wrenching climax. Some here compare it to Bette Davis's Classic 'Of Human Bondage' and the only Academy Award Winning turn for Joan Crawford "Mildred Pierce', I do not see that at all. Consistently excellent in her roles (see 'Christmas in Connecticut' or 'Meet John Doe') Ms Stanwyck owns the three-hankie tear jerker, and the jewel in her crown is 'Stella Dallas'/
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