Stella Dallas - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Stella Dallas Reviews

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February 14, 2018
A radical masterpiece about the dangers of idolatry in marriage, and how the pressures of a conformist society can destroy an individual. Decades of critics have missed the real point, distracted by excellent performances and direction.
January 15, 2018
1001 movies to see before you die.
½ February 2, 2016
The best part of this film is Barbara Stanwyk, she received an Oscar nomination and should've won. I wasn't getting into the film at first, but eventually it got me due to Stanwyk. The ending is pretty heartbreaking. definitely worth a watch!
November 23, 2014
Barbara Stanwyck gives it all for playing the selfless mother. How can you not break into tears in the final scene?
½ October 19, 2014
A well-done, albeit rather predictable story of a mother who sacrifices her own hopes and dreams so her daughter will have a better life than she did. Barbara Stanwyck's tour de force performance elevates "Stella Dallas," (1937) above the level of mere soap opera.
May 11, 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.
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.
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.
May 16, 2013
A slow but powerful drama about a mother who must push her only daughter away to give her the life she deserves.
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 February 6, 2013
A brilliant melodrama from the late 30s with a beautiful and heartbreaking performance from Barbara Stanwyck. The name alone is divine, Stella Dallas. It's a powerful sounding name that also feels common, and so the character is established. Stanwyck is supreme in this trashy role of a mill worker's daughter who dreams of being something more, and when she can not transcend the classes she will do anything so that her daughter can. A beautifully filmed story that provides a glimpse into different classes of society in an era long gone.
½ December 16, 2012
My wife, youngest daughter and I watched this the other day. We were all sobbing uncontrollably by the ending. Stanwyck is amazing in her ability to deglamorize to an uncomfortable point. Credit is also due to the author who didn't make this a story pointing out how evil any person is. In fact, if anything, the villain of the piece must be the environment in which Stella was raised.
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.
½ May 31, 2012
Barbara Stanwyck rescues King Vidor's mawkishly sentimental melodrama "Stella Dallas" with her moving performance as the title character who intentionally drives her beloved daughter away so that she (her daughter) might enjoy a more affluent life. The film pulls no punches when dealing directly with the social divide between the working class and high society types, but Vidor's silent film experience may have been the cause of several of the overdone performances. Stanwyck alone remains the real reason to see the film.
May 13, 2012
Stanwick shines as the lovable and bawdy mother with a heart of gold.
Super Reviewer
April 6, 2012
Barbara Motherfucking Stanwyck.
½ April 5, 2012
The tearjerker of all tearjerkers; Stanwyck plays the mother of a young girl, and tries to give her the very best.
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