FLM2009-630: The Art of Film
Stella Dallas (1937) Dir. King Vidor. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, Anne Shirley, Barbara O’Neil, Alan Hale. MGM (DVD) This film follows our protagonist, Stella (Barbara Stanwyck) through her journey of courtship, marriage to loss. Stella sneaks her way into meeting Stephen Dallas (John Boles) after finding out in a tabloid magazine article about his family fortune being loss and him ending his engagement to Helen (Barbara O’Neil) the socialite. Stella’s complete devotion to her daughter Laurel (Anne Shirley) and her reluctance to change who she is, keeps her from moving to New York with her newly promoted husband Stephen (John Boles). Living separate lives, not completely confessing to the fact that the couple was what would currently be called “legally separated” due to probable censors. The film’s thematic of maternal sacrifice and the loneliness, devotion of the film cause this movie to become what is known in the film industry as a “Weepie”. The Mise-en-scene of the film is predominantly domestic and focused on the excesses of interiors and Stella’s outlandish fashions. The film cannot be categorized as realistic, even though it seems naturalistic at times. The storytelling of Stella’s constant journey to better her life and that of Laurel’s, is purely stylized. Stella’s persona sticks out like a sore thumb against the socialite circles, dressing in the eccentric fashions she deems as stylish, speaking too loud, not fitting into the lady-like deportment her husband demanded. This being the mother ship of all maternal melodramas, Stella sets a mold for the many to follow. The constant waves of swoony and dramatic music create an emotional musical blanket throughout the film. Setting the moods in the scenes from happy to sad with one wave of the conductor’s hand. The acting at times seemed unnatural and campy, like a modern day Soap Opera. The lives and differences of the...
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