Stella (1990)

PG-13 | 107 mins | Melodrama | 2 February 1990

Director:

John Erman

Writer:

Robert Getchell

Producer:

Samuel Goldwyn Jr.

Cinematographer:

Billy Williams

Editor:

Bud Molin

Production Designer:

James Hulsey

Production Companies:

Touchstone Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn Company, Stella Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

This is the third film adapted from the 1923 novel Stella Dallas. Samuel Goldwin originally produced it as a silent film in 1925 (see entry), then remade it a dozen years later as an Academy Award-nominated vehicle for Barbara Stanwyck (1937, see entry). This time the film was retitled Stella because the lead character does not marry “Stephen Dallas,” as she did in the earlier films. Though the names Stephen Dallas and “Ed Munn” remain from the earlier films, Stella’s maiden name was changed from “Martin” to “Claire,” and daughter “Laurel Dallas” became “Jenny Claire.” Other name changes are “Helen Morrison” to “Janice Morrison” and “Richard Grosvenor, III” to “Pat Robbins, II.” However, the ending remained basically the same, as Stella anonymously watches her daughter’s wedding from outside.
       Stella was Bette Midler’s sixth film for Walt Disney Studios’ Touchstone Pictures. According to the 4 Jun 1988 Toronto Star, she was “Disney’s hottest female star since Minnie Mouse.” Because of her interest in the story, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg spent eighteen months “negotiating with Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. for the remake rights,” the 12 Feb 1989 LAT reported. Stella became a co-production between them, the 10 Jun 1988 DV reported. Though both companies shared “creative control,” Disney’s Buena Vista Pictures got North American distribution rights, while Goldwyn handled the rest of the world. The film was budgeted at $17-million.
       As early as Oct 1988, a two-page advertisement in the HR “trumpeted” “Bette Midler is Stella, ” the 21 Oct 1988 Orange County Register noted, but the film was ... More Less

This is the third film adapted from the 1923 novel Stella Dallas. Samuel Goldwin originally produced it as a silent film in 1925 (see entry), then remade it a dozen years later as an Academy Award-nominated vehicle for Barbara Stanwyck (1937, see entry). This time the film was retitled Stella because the lead character does not marry “Stephen Dallas,” as she did in the earlier films. Though the names Stephen Dallas and “Ed Munn” remain from the earlier films, Stella’s maiden name was changed from “Martin” to “Claire,” and daughter “Laurel Dallas” became “Jenny Claire.” Other name changes are “Helen Morrison” to “Janice Morrison” and “Richard Grosvenor, III” to “Pat Robbins, II.” However, the ending remained basically the same, as Stella anonymously watches her daughter’s wedding from outside.
       Stella was Bette Midler’s sixth film for Walt Disney Studios’ Touchstone Pictures. According to the 4 Jun 1988 Toronto Star, she was “Disney’s hottest female star since Minnie Mouse.” Because of her interest in the story, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg spent eighteen months “negotiating with Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. for the remake rights,” the 12 Feb 1989 LAT reported. Stella became a co-production between them, the 10 Jun 1988 DV reported. Though both companies shared “creative control,” Disney’s Buena Vista Pictures got North American distribution rights, while Goldwyn handled the rest of the world. The film was budgeted at $17-million.
       As early as Oct 1988, a two-page advertisement in the HR “trumpeted” “Bette Midler is Stella, ” the 21 Oct 1988 Orange County Register noted, but the film was delayed when the script needed a rewrite. To update the material, the producers made Stella a self-sufficient working-class single mother instead of a social climber, and changed her motivation for giving up her daughter to the more altruistic desire to help her escape “the poverty cycle, drugs and a hoodlum boyfriend,” the 16 Jul 1989 NYT noted.
       The 19 May 1989 The Tribune of San Diego, CA, reported that Midler was working with a voice coach to learn how to speak like a working-class woman from upstate New York. Some of her footage had to be reshot.
       Both Montreal, Quebec, and Vancouver, British Columbia, were considered as locations before the producers settled on Toronto, Ontario, according to the 11 Nov 1988 Montreal Gazette . Actor Brian Kerwin was originally screen-tested for the role of “Stephen Dallas” and flown to Disney headquarters in FL for contract talks, but the thirty-nine-year-old actor was considered “too boyish looking” to appear opposite the forty-two-year-old Midler, the 24 Feb 1989 Vancouver Sun reported.
       According to studio production notes in AMPAS library files, the film’s last scene—Jenny’s wedding at Tavern on the Green in New York City—was the first to be shot when principal photography began 21 Mar 1989. To provide rain, 17,000 gallons of water were “trucked in” from New Jersey. Also, panoramic scenes of the city were filmed from a tourist boat on the East River. The production then moved to Toronto, Canada, for ten weeks in Studio D at Cinevillage in the city’s East End and on location, primarily at a rundown apartment building on Crawford Street in the West End (Stella’s Watertown apartment house), the Variety Club Children’s Village (the Watertown air terminal), and a theater at the University of Toronto. To create snow in some scenes, the production used 900 pounds of instant potato flakes in the foreground and bales of cotton around trees in the background. The production concluded on Florida’s “Gold Coast” for a week of shooting at the luxurious Boca Raton Resort and Club on 5-8 June 1989, the 21 Apr 1989 Palm Beach Post reported. The 16 Oct 1989 DV reported that additional filming had postponed the film’s scheduled 12 Jan 1990 release. Because of the story’s twenty-year span (from 1969 to the late 1980s), Midler had fifty different changes of clothes, and costar Trini Alvarado had thirty-five. Also, to differentiate between Stella Claire’s working-class environment and Stephen Dallas’s “glamorous world,” cinematographer Billy Williams used different film stocks, including a new high-speed Kodak film that provided a “grittier” look for Stella’s “shabby” neighborhood.
       The 15 Apr 1989 edition of Toronto’s The Globe and Mail reported that the real-life slum apartment used in Stella was an offscreen battleground between tenants and the landlord, who wanted to move them out and renovate the building. Many tenants facing eviction were poor single mothers.
       Reviews were mixed, but the 1 Feb 1990 DV summed up the consensus that the remake of the 1927 “weepie” was “hopelessly dated and ill-advised.” The 16 Nov 1990 DV noted the film’s “poor reception” at the box office.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Jun 1988
p. 1, 25
Daily Variety
31 Mar 1989
p. 16
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1989
p. 2
Daily Variety
1 Feb 1990
p. 2, 16
Daily Variety
24 Feb 1990
p. 3
Daily Variety
16 Nov 1990.
p. 30
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 1990
p. 4
Los Angeles Times
12 Feb 1989
Calendar, p. 24
Los Angeles Times
2 Feb 1990
Calendar, p. 1
New York Times
16 Jul 1989
Section A, p. 15
New York Times
2 Feb 1990
p. 10
Orange County Register
21 Oct 1988
p. 27
Orange County Register
5 Oct 1989
Section K, p. 4
Palm Beach Post (FL)
21 Apr 1989.
---
The Gazette (Montreal)
16 Aug 1988
Section C, p. 6
The Gazette (Montreal)
11 Nov 1988
Section C, p. 1
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
15 Apr 1989
Section A, p. 12
The Tribune (San Diego, CA)
19 May 1989
Section D, p. 2
Toronto Star
4 Jun 1988
Section H, p. 1
Toronto Star
4 Apr 1989
Section D, p. 1
Vancouver Sun (B.C.)
24 Feb 1989
Section C, p. 1
Variety
7 Feb 1990
pp. 6 & 30
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Touchstone Pictures and
The Samuel Goldwyn Company present
A John Erman film
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
Unit prod mgr, New York
1st asst dir, New York
2d asst dir, New York
2d 2d asst dir, New York
Unit prod mgr, Florida
2d asst dir, Florida
2d 2d asst dir, Florida
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Steadicam
Steadicam
Gaffer
Gaffer
Best boy elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Addl ed
Asst ed, L.A.
Asst ed, L.A.
Asst ed, Toronto
Asst ed, Toronto
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Cost supv
Costumer (Ms. Midler)
Set costumer
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Orch
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
ADR ed
Foley ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Dolby stereo consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Title des
Titles and opticals
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup artist (Ms. Midler)
Hair stylist (Ms. Midler)
Hair des
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting (Toronto)
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Asst to John Erman
Asst to David V. Picker
Asst to Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.
Asst to Bonnie Bruckheimer-Martell
Dialect coach
Dialect coach
Dialect coach
Dial coach
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod auditor
1st asst auditor
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Extras casting
Extras casting
Prod coord, New York
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt team
Stunt team
Stunt team
Stunt team
Stunt team
Stunt team
Stunt team
Stunt team
Stunt team
Stunt team
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Stella Dallas by Olive Higgins Prouty (Boston, 1923).
SONGS
“The Letter,” written by Wayne Carson Head, performed by The Box Tops, courtesy of Arista Records, Inc.
“The Stripper,” written by David Rose, performed by The David Rose Orchestra, courtesy of Polygram Special Products, a division of Polygram Records, Inc.
“The Idler,” written and performed by Steve Hunter, courtesy of IRS Records/MCA Records
+
SONGS
“The Letter,” written by Wayne Carson Head, performed by The Box Tops, courtesy of Arista Records, Inc.
“The Stripper,” written by David Rose, performed by The David Rose Orchestra, courtesy of Polygram Special Products, a division of Polygram Records, Inc.
“The Idler,” written and performed by Steve Hunter, courtesy of IRS Records/MCA Records
“You,” written and performed by Bert Sommer
“California Dreamin’,” written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips, performed by The Mamas & The Papas, courtesy of MCA Records
“Love To Love You, Baby,” written by Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, and Pete Bellotte
“Fashion By Passion,” written by Rick Chadock and Dennis Dries, performed by Tatoo Rodeo
“When A Man Loves A Woman,” written by Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, performed by Percy Sledge, courtesy of Dominion Entertainment, Inc.
“I Get High,” written by Jeff Robert, performed by DV8
“Don’t Ever Be Done Lovin’ Me,” written by Kevin Dever and Dale Chadwick, performed by Roadwork
“Mama Yo Quiero,” written by Jararaca & Vincente Paiva and Emilio De Torre
“Smoke-Mambo,” written by Randy Carlos and D. Lourie, performed by Randy Carlos and His Orchestra, courtesy of Fiesta Records
“Say You Do,” written by Paul DeSilva, Michael Bernard and Steven Gaita, performed by Zoom Zoom
“Boy Meets Girl,” written by Trevor and Bartock & Lansky, performed by Trevor
“One More Cheer,” written by Jay Gruska and Paul Gordon, produced by Arif Mardin, performed by Bette Midler.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
2 February 1990
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 2 February 1990
New York opening: 2 February 1990
Production Date:
21 March - 8 June 1989
Copyright Claimant:
The Samuel Goldwyn Company, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright Date:
2 February 1990
Copyright Number:
PA449203
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
107
Length(in feet):
9,811
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30133
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1969, Stella Claire bartends at Ed’s Bar in Watertown, New York. She flirts with regulars, and when someone plays “The Stripper” on the jukebox, Stella enlivens the crowd by mimicking, fully dressed, a strip teaser’s gyrations on the bar. One appreciative customer is Stephen Dallas, a young doctor doing his internship at a nearby hospital. Stephen persistently asks for a date, but Stella tells him he is too “fancy” for her. However, she eventually agrees to accompany him to a movie. Afterward, when Stephen comments that the film was “puerile,” she asks what the word means. Returning to her apartment, Stella shows Stephen her scrapbook as she tells her life story. Whereas Stephen Dallas is the son of doctors, Stella Claire is a working-class girl whose parents died years ago. When he takes her to an operatic concert, Stella is bored, feels out of place, and provokes Stephen into laughter that forces them to leave the theater. They laugh a lot together, and their romance goes well for several weeks until Stephen informs Stella that he will soon begin his practice in New York City. Stella springs the news that she is pregnant. Stephen wants to arrange an abortion, but Stella balks. When Stephen asks to marry her, Stella turns him down because they have too little in common. Stephen’s confession that he just wants to “do the right thing” angers her. Defiantly, she plans to have the baby without Stephen or his financial help, and insists that he go to New York City. When Ed’s Bar owner Ed Munn, a longtime friend, offers to marry Stella, she turns him down, but accepts his doting care as she ... +


In 1969, Stella Claire bartends at Ed’s Bar in Watertown, New York. She flirts with regulars, and when someone plays “The Stripper” on the jukebox, Stella enlivens the crowd by mimicking, fully dressed, a strip teaser’s gyrations on the bar. One appreciative customer is Stephen Dallas, a young doctor doing his internship at a nearby hospital. Stephen persistently asks for a date, but Stella tells him he is too “fancy” for her. However, she eventually agrees to accompany him to a movie. Afterward, when Stephen comments that the film was “puerile,” she asks what the word means. Returning to her apartment, Stella shows Stephen her scrapbook as she tells her life story. Whereas Stephen Dallas is the son of doctors, Stella Claire is a working-class girl whose parents died years ago. When he takes her to an operatic concert, Stella is bored, feels out of place, and provokes Stephen into laughter that forces them to leave the theater. They laugh a lot together, and their romance goes well for several weeks until Stephen informs Stella that he will soon begin his practice in New York City. Stella springs the news that she is pregnant. Stephen wants to arrange an abortion, but Stella balks. When Stephen asks to marry her, Stella turns him down because they have too little in common. Stephen’s confession that he just wants to “do the right thing” angers her. Defiantly, she plans to have the baby without Stephen or his financial help, and insists that he go to New York City. When Ed’s Bar owner Ed Munn, a longtime friend, offers to marry Stella, she turns him down, but accepts his doting care as she approaches her baby’s birth. One night, at a movie theater, Stella’s water breaks, and at the hospital, a nurse presents her with a baby girl, Jennifer “Jenny” Claire. Three years later, Ed Munn and an old Army buddy, Tony La Banza, stop by Stella’s apartment to announce that because of gambling debts, Ed has sold half of Ed’s Bar to Tony. To celebrate, they dance, but suddenly Stephen Dallas appears. When Stella asks what he wants, Stephen confesses he cannot stop thinking about his daughter, Jenny, and wants to spend time with her. Stella takes Stephen into the three-year-old’s room and introduces him. With Stella’s permission, Stephen takes Jenny to the park the next day, and proposes visiting New York City, where she can meet her grandparents. Stella agrees to let Jenny visit, so that she can enjoy a more privileged lifestyle. Years go by, as father and daughter become closer during her frequent trips to Manhattan. On Easter break from high school, a teenaged Jenny wishes she did not have to fly back to Watertown. At a school function, Stella clashes with Mrs. Wilkinson, an snobbish woman who makes snide remarks about Stella’s appearance and financial situation. It has been a while since Stella quit working at Ed’s Bar, and after a couple of years working at a lumber yard, she has been laid off. She supplements her unemployment checks by doing seamstress work. One evening, Stella invites Ed Munn to dinner. Ed lost the bar and is now selling real estate. Jenny disapproves of Ed’s drinking and gambling, and during the meal she is painfully aware of Ed and Stella’s lower-class behavior. Sensing her daughter’s disdain, Stella starts a food fight to loosen her up. Jenny gets a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant and promises the work will not affect her grades. When Ed Munn and Stella attend a nightclub, a boorish customer starts a fight, and Mr. and Mrs. Wilkerson witness police detaining the jovial Ed and Stella. Smiling, Mrs. Wilkerson declares, “a few phone calls are in order.” A day or so later, none of Jenny’s classmates attend her birthday party, and several boys drive by the apartment exposing their bare bottoms out the car window. Jenny cries in her mother’s arms. Stella becomes a “Nancy Lee representative,” selling women’s cosmetics house to house. Jenny brings home her first serious boyfriend, a juvenile delinquent named Jim Uptegrove. Stella informs Jim that she does not like him because he is a “no-account,” but when she tries to break up the romance, Jenny defies her. One night, as Stella lies in bed with Ed, he asks why she was never interested in him, and Stella replies that he was always a friend. Ed tries to convince her that the best marriage is between friends who feel comfortable doing things together, but as Stella watches Ed pour liquor from a bottle, she knows not to get too close. Jim Uptegrove drives Jenny to a remote area, demands sex, and orders her out of the car when she refuses. Jenny arrives home at four in the morning, and when Stella shouts at her, Jenny lies that she and Jim had sex all night long. She jeers at Stella for dating a “joke” like Ed Munn. Stella slaps her, Jenny slaps her back, and Stella orders her out of the house. Jenny packs and takes a taxi to the airport, but Stella catches her in the terminal and apologizes as they embrace. Jenny admits that she did not have sex with Jim. In Manhattan, Stephen asks Jenny to meet his new girl friend, Janice Morrison, because he wants his “two favorite women” to know each other. Jenny becomes annoyed at sharing him with “some rich bitch,” but Stephen calms his daughter by inviting her to lay her head on his chest, just as he has done since she was a little girl. On a trip outside the city, Jenny asks Janice about her wealth and background. Janice explains that she grew up on a farm, but earned a scholarship to Smith College, got a publishing job, and married a wealthy colleague, who later died and left his money to her and their son. Later, Jenny confesses to her father that when she looks at the poised and privileged Janice, she sees her own mother by comparison selling cosmetics all day for little pay. Stephen explains that he always tried to help Stella financially, but she rebuffed him. He fondly recounts their early days together, and how when he asked Stella to marry him, she wisely knew they were too different to live together. Over the next two weeks, Jenny and Janice become friends, and Janice buys Jenny a new dress. At a dinner party, Jenny meets Pat Robbins, a student at Brown College who, despite his family wealth, wants to teach learning-disabled children. She and Pat promise to write each other. When Jenny returns home, she talks warmly about Janice and stirs her mother’s jealousy. On Christmas Eve, a drunken Ed Munn stumbles in with a turkey and stuffs it into the oven, but Stella tosses him out. Stephen arrives moments later with presents. Jenny is happy to see him, and Stella runs upstairs to make herself presentable. Stephen and Janice are driving to Connecticut the next day, and when he mentions that Pat Robbins will be there, Jenny wants to go. Though Stella feels abandoned, she insists that Jenny accompany her father. Ed Munn crashes back into the house, sees Stephen, and storms out again, accusing Stella of forsaking him for her “rich friends.” Later, when Stella gets a credit card, she buys airline tickets for herself and Jenny to fly to an expensive hotel in Florida where Pat Robbins is staying during spring break from college. While Jenny and Pat spend time together and fall in love, Stella gets a cold and stays in bed. However, intoxicated on cold medicine, she dons an outlandish summer dress with a ridiculous hat, goes to the hotel beach, and makes a fool of herself with the wealthy guests. Seeing her mother doing the tango with a Latino server, Jenny runs away. Later, Stella hears a teenage girl telling her friend that the “crazy lady“ on the beach was Jenny Claire's mother, and speculates that Pat Robbins will lose interest because of the embarrassment. Stella and Jenny return home, both feeling ashamed. Jenny resumes her relationship with Jim Uptegrove, and when police arrest her during a drug sweep in a nightclub, Jenny is jailed for slapping a female officer. When Jenny tests negative for drugs, Stella is allowed to take her home, but realizes she needs to change her daughter’s environment. Stella appeals to Janice Morrison, who is ready to marry Stephen, to adopt Jenny and give her the opportunity to live a better life. Soon after, Stephen and Janice ask Jenny to live with them, but Jenny becomes indignant because she does not want to leave her mother. Meanwhile, Stella finds Ed Munn passed out in a bar, awakens him, and takes him home. The next day, Jenny arrives from New York City and asks how Stella could think she might want to live somewhere else? Stella admits that she cannot handle Jenny anymore, and wants to start looking after herself. Calling Ed Munn out of the bedroom, she announces they are getting married and moving to Hawaii. She orders Jenny to live with her rich father, but cries after Jenny leaves. A newspaper announces the nuptials of Miss Jennifer Claire and Mr. Patrick Robbins, II. Before the wedding, Jenny tells Stephen she wishes her mother could be there. That night, Stella Claire secretly arrives at Jenny’s wedding at the exclusive Tavern on the Green in Central Park, but stands outside in the rain, watching the wedding through the window. A policeman tries to shoo her away, but Stella demands to stay until she sees Jenny lift the veil and reveal the happiness on her face. Stella walks away, smiling. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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