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Sunday, January 20, 2019

"Stella Dallas" (1937)

The first talkie version of Olive Higgins Prouty's popular novel, this is one of the all-time great weepies for movie masochists. Barbara Stanwyck is a blue collar dame from a millworking family in Massachusetts. She's laser focused on landing a man with money to beat her humdrum life and sets her sites on the charming and handsome John Boles. Their eventual marriage fails but they have a daughter who becomes the fulcrum for the rest of the plot. Stanwyck becomes the self-sacrificing mother to beat all comers. She never really shakes her "dem, dese, and dose" accent or her gaudy nouveau riche taste and she's loathe to become a social embarrassment for her teenager (sincere Anne Shirley). To give away more spoils the plot but you soon realize the whole picture is a set-up for one of the most gut-punching, tear-inducing endings in cinema history. And as always, Stanwyck plays it just right, garnering a well-deserved Oscar nod for her performance.

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