Stella Dallas

Drama | English | 106 minutes


In post-World War I Massachusetts, Stella Martin, a mill-worker’s daughter, manages to elevate her social position by marrying Stephen Dallas, a wealthy local. Shortly after the marriage, Stella gives birth to a daughter, Laurel. Though both Stella and Stephen adore Laurel, their marriage begins to fray. When Stephen receives a promotion that requires him to move to New York, Stella refuses to join him, keeping Laurel with her. Stella takes Laurel to a fancy resort where Laurel meets Richard Grosvenor III. They fall in love. In New York, Stephen renews a relationship with Helen, a widow with three children. Stella’s vulgar and unstable behavior results in Stephen divorcing her. Stella forces a bereft  Laurel to live with the now-married Stephen and Helen. Later, Stella hears that Laurel and Richard are getting married. Stella watches them exchange vows while standing outside in the rain peering through the window. After the ceremony, Stella slips away. Although wracked with sadness, Stella is delighted  she  successfully arranged her daughter’s happiness. 

Barbara Stanwyck (Stella Dallas) / John Boles (Stephen Dallas) / Anne Shirley (Laurel Dallas) / Tim Holt (Richard Grosvenor III)
Why Stream This Film?
The performances by Stanwyck and Shirley, as mother and daughter, are excruciating. They emerge with two different lifestyles. Shirley loves her working-class mother even as she luxuriates as a member of the upper class, in which she was raised.  But this is how Stanwyck planned it. This is the sadness of the story.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 89%
  • Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Barbara Stanwyck); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Shirley)

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Stanwyck wrung every last smile and tear out of every speech. Even when she was simply reacting, Stanwyck emanated frustration channeled into maternal martyrdom, but without an ounce of self-pity.
TV GUIDE staff


The story, from the novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, itself is a simple enough one, not so much of mother love as the difficulties of a young girl whose parents are at extremes in the social world. It isn’t overdone.


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