Stella (1990 film)

Stella is a 1990 American drama film produced by The Samuel Goldwyn Company and released by Touchstone Pictures. The screenplay by Robert Getchell is the third feature film adaptation of the 1923 novel Stella Dallas by Olive Higgins Prouty. Previous film versions were Stella Dallas (1937) and the silent film Stella Dallas (1925).

Stella poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Erman
Screenplay byRobert Getchell
Based onStella Dallas
1923 novel
by Olive Higgins Prouty
Produced bySamuel Goldwyn Jr.
CinematographyBilly Williams
Edited byJerrold L. Ludwig
Bud Molin
Music byJohn Morris
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures (North America)
The Samuel Goldwyn Company (International)
Release date
February 2, 1990 (1990-02-02)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$19 million
Box office$20,240,128

The title character is a vulgar and unfashionable single mother living in Watertown, NY, who, determined to give her daughter Jenny all the opportunities she never had, ultimately makes a selfless sacrifice to ensure her happiness. This film version differs from earlier versions in that Stella never marries the father of her child, and in fact, declines his proposal early in the film.

John Erman directed a cast that included Bette Midler as Stella and Trini Alvarado as Jenny, with John Goodman, Stephen Collins, Marsha Mason, Eileen Brennan, Linda Hart, Ben Stiller, and William McNamara in supporting roles.


Stella (Bette Midler) is a feisty woman working in a bar when she meets and falls for the suave charms of the young Dr. Stephen Dallas (Stephen Collins). Although from opposite ends of the social spectrum, they start an affair resulting in Stella becoming pregnant. After he proposes half-heartedly, she rejects him and embarks upon raising their child Jenny as a single mother but is always helped and encouraged by her stalwart friend, a local good natured barfly, Ed Munn (John Goodman). Stella is fiercely independent and proud and is determined to do well by this child and take on whatever jobs she must to raise her daughter properly. When Jenny is 4 years old, her father suddenly reappears on the scene and is determined to get to know his daughter. At first reluctant to allow this, Stella is persuaded to allow contact, and a happy bond develops between the father and daughter. As Jenny (Trini Alvarado) grows up, she becomes torn between her father's rich and well-connected background, and her loyalty and love for her mother who is poor and free spirited, yet devoted to her daughter. She also despises the perceived relationship she sees developing between Stella and Ed Munn who is now a broken alcoholic. Jenny eventually meets and falls for a boy from her fathers 'world' and Stella realizes that now, the disparities in her own and Jennys father's backgrounds might jeopardize her daughter's future happiness.



The film received mediocre reviews. Peter Rainer quipped in his Los Angeles Times review, "Do we really need to be put through another version of 'Stella Dallas'? Is this the vehicle that Bette Midler thinks will reclaim her serious-actress status? If so, she's greatly misunderstood her gifts, which stand in raucous, subversive contrast to everything this sudsy weepie represents. Directed by John Erman, freighted with a musical score of soaring banality, this 20-year saga of an uneducated, working-class single mother who sacrifices everything to give her daughter the chance she never had is so recklessly shameless it verges on camp parody."[1] In The Washington Post, critic Rita Kempley stated: "From bathhouse chanteuse to Lemon Joy diva, from self-proclaimed queen of camp, sass and tactlessness to goddess of suds, sap and pap -- yes, you have come a long way, Baby Divine. Gone is the Bette Midler of "Clams on the Half Shell" and 'Ruthless People,' the better Midler, and in her place is this new middling piddler."[2] In her New York Times review, Janet Maslin said, "Bette Midler, too old for the film's opening and too smart for its resolution, isn't exactly the right actress, but she's a lot closer than might have been expected. Ms. Midler manages to gloss over the story's inconsistencies, play up its charming aspects, and generally bluster her way through . . . her exuberance is most helpful in overshadowing the inconvenient aspects of this story."[3] A far more positive review came from critic Roger Ebert who wrote that "Stella is the kind of movie that works you over and leaves you feeling good, unless you absolutely steel yourself against it. Go to sneer. Stay to weep."[4]


Box officeEdit

Stella debuted at No.1 in Canada and the United States.[5] Total US gross for the film was $30,062,347.[6]

Home mediaEdit

The film was issued on VHS on Touchstone Home Video (Cat. #995) on August 29, 1990, and proved more successful on home video.[7] Stella was released on DVD on April 8, 2003. The film was presented in Widescreen format, no special features were included.


  1. ^ Rainer, Peter (1990-02-02). "MOVIE REVIEWS : Melodrama: Was this 'Stella,' a loony Midler remake, really necessary?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  2. ^ "Stella". Washington Post. 1990-02-02. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (1990-02-02). "Review/Film;Bette Midler as a Selfless Mother in Tear-Inducing 'Stella'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  4. ^ "Stella". Chicago Sun Times. 1990-02-02. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  5. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-02-06). "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : 'Driving Miss Daisy' Gets the Checkered Flag". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  6. ^ "Stella (1990) - Financial Information".
  7. ^ Hunt, Dennis (1990-09-27). "VIDEO RENTALS: 'Born' Can't Pass High-Revving 'Daisy'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.

External linksEdit