The height of multiple-hankie melodrama, King Vidor's Stella Dallas (1937) is also the most affecting screen adaptation of the Olive Higgins Prouty novel. As the ultimate self-abnegating mother, Barbara Stanwyck endows her upwardly aspiring Stella with a potent mixture of crass fashion sense, hedonistic energy, self-aware pathos, and maternal love, while Anne Shirley's Laurel is visibly and poignantly torn between embarrassment and daughterly attachment. Stanwyck's dignity gives Stella's sacrifice to the class system the emotional punch that it requires, as she memorably stands outside a bay window in the rain, watching her refined daughter finally get what Stella always wanted for her. Critically praised for its superior performances, Stella Dallas garnered Stanwyck the first of her four Oscar nominations for Best Actress, as well as a Supporting Actress nomination for Shirley. Previously filmed in 1925, Stella Dallas was remade again in 1990 as the Bette Midler vehicle Stella.
by Lucia Bozzola review