Bette Midler film updates `Stella Dallas’
Article from:Chicago Sun-Times Article date:June 20, 1989
TORONTO It’s 1937. Barbara Stanwyck, playing the outcast Stella Dallas, watches from outside as her daughter gets married. It is one of Hollywood’s classic tear-jerking scenes.
Flash forward to 1989.
The feisty, funny Bette Midler is starring in a remake of “Stella Dallas.” Her production team says Midler’s version updates the old concepts of high society but keeps the basic story intact. So, instead of Stanwyck needing to chase after a rich husband to make her unsuccessful attempt to move upward, Midler can grumpily tell her friend how she told off the rich guy and doesn’t need his money.
The new version, called “Stella,” was filmed in Toronto this spring for a planned release in the winter.
“I think the old movie was really about class distinction,” said director John Erman. “This movie is really about opportunities.”
This will be the third version of the Stella Dallas story, based on a novel by Olive Higgins Prouty. Samuel Goldwyn made a 1925 silent film, starring Belle Bennett, Ronald Coleman, Jean Hersholt and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Goldwyn produced the King Vidor version in 1937, and Stanwyck was nominated for an Academy Award.
The Samuel Goldwyn Co. held the rights. Now, Samuel Goldwyn Jr. is co-producing the new “Stella” with Touchstone Pictures, which has an exclusive arrangement with Midler. Touchstone will distribute the movie in the United States, and Goldwyn’s company will handle international distribution.
Goldwyn traces the idea to remake the movie back to 1986. He said he didn’t intend to get involved in a co-production, but the chance to get Midler as the film’s star was too good to pass up.
“She really has become a reason to redo the picture,” he said.
As for the famous scene where Midler will be watching her daughter get married, “If anybody in this day and age can make that scene fly, she could,” said actor Stephen Collins, who plays rich New Yorker Steven Dallas. “If it works, it will be similar to `Beaches‘ – a really good cry and the kind of story people really like going to the movies for.”