A Film by King Vidor
New Books Network 2023
Stella Dallas, the star vehicle for Barbara Stanwyck, hinges on a thought experiment: if you knew that by pushing a button your child would be happy for the rest of her life—but the cost of this happiness was that you could never see her again—would you do it? Mike and Dan talk about King Vidor’s 1937 melodrama as an example of what movies do so well: getting viewers to understand why people make decisions that defy logic but which are emotionally reasonable. Mike calls Stella a character who exhibits the maximum of emotion with the minimum of introspection: is he correct? Skip that birthday party—no one’s coming, anyway—and give this a listen!
Dan interviewed Catherine Russell on New Books in Film about her 2023 book The Cinema of Barbara Stanwyck. You can find the interview here and the book here. If you’re interested in the 1923 novel by Olive Higgins Prouty upon which the film is based, you can find it here.