Friday, May 15, 2015
Mini-Review - "Stella Dallas" (1937)
A little known fact about me - If I had to pick a favorite actress of all time, it would be Barbara Stanwyck. Her ability to deliver such ferocity, charm and sentiment is unlike anything I've seen in any actor or actress. She could melt any screen with just a single tear, and "Stella Dallas" proves that.
I'm convinced that this film was created specifically to show off just how great of an actress Stanwyck could be. In this film, where Stanwyck plays the titular role, we see this poor-born girl go through a myriad of life changes, some good and others terribly selfish and greedy. She ends up marrying a rich man, and Stella ends up falling in love with the idea of being rich and popular, causing the two to drift apart. But not after the two have a child together, and Stella takes the baby to raise on her own, even if the father moves away for business.
At this point, Stella forgets all about her other life and grows into the role of a mother, and all the sacrifices that come with that. Her own personal happiness is tied directly to her daughter, Laurel. She only wants to give her daughter a good life, one that Stella did not get. But as Laurel grows older and learns more about the world and her father, it might just be that living with Stella might not be the best path for Laurel in life, much to her mother's dismay.
Of course, all of this comes to a head in the final scene in the film - which I will not spoil - where tragedy and success meet, and one of the crowning moments in Barbara Stanwyck's acting career is found. A moment where, through no dialogue at all, Stanwyck communicates to us about loss, pride, respect, acceptance and happiness. The pain that she must be going through is excruciating, but the joy that her job as a mother has led up to this moment is even greater.
"Stella Dallas" is not just a great example of Barbara Stanwyck's acting abilities, but a modern-day tragedy about a fear that all mother's must face - their children growing up and becoming adults themselves. A timeless tale that pulls at the heart and reminds us that being a parent is a difficult task, but it is also a very rewarding one.
Final Grade: A-