Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stella Dallas (1937)

***
USA

The closest that Barbara Stanwyck ever came to giving a bad performance was playing the most masochistic mother this side of Mildred Pierce. Stella Dallas has an unfortunate penchant for wearing at least four dead animals at any one time. When she discovers that her outfits have made her the laughing stock of high society and are about to stand in the way of her daughter's future with a toothy tennis instructor, she makes the ultimate sacrifice: she parts with the daughter to keep the clothes. It's hypnotic watching Stanwyck grasping for dignity from beneath gravity-defying costumes. And you appreciate her fire and tenacity that much more, pitted as it is against the rest of the cast's rigid woodenness, including shovel-jawed John Boles as her purebred husband.

dir: King Vidor
cast: Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, Anne Shirley, Barbara O'Neil, Alan Hale, Marjorie Main, George Walcott, Ann Shoemaker, Tim Holt

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