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Stella Dallas

Live Musical Accompaniment
Screening on Film
Directed by King Vidor.
With Ronald Colman, Belle Bennett, Alice Joyce, Douglas Fairbanks Jr..
US, 1937, 16mm, black & white, 106 min.

King Vidor’s beloved 1937 version of Stella Dallas stars Barbara Stanwyck as the vibrant, outrageous, narcissistic, and ultimately self-sacrificing Stella.  In an Oscar nominated performance praised for its courage Stanwyck alternately evokes defiance at the upper class society that shuns her and the deep pathos that gives the “weepie” its name.  Anne Shirley (also nominated by the Academy) plays Stella’s much-loved and devoted daughter with charm and sensitivity, and Vidor’s direction abounds with delicately constructed moments that “often [bring] tragedy and comedy very close” (Barbara Stanwyk).  The picture’s resulting emotional power—most notable in the memorably painful scene of a failed birthday party—cements Stella Dallas as one of the great family melodramas of the thirties.

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