Bette says `Stella‘ role sought her out
Article from:Chicago Sun-Times Article date:February 22, 1990 Author: Lou Cedrone
BALTIMORE Bette Midler, starring in “Stella” at first-run theaters across the United States, said the role of Stella found her.
“It chose me,” Midler said. “Actually, it came to me through Sam Goldwyn Jr. He went to Disney and told them he wanted me to play the role in the remake. There had been some talk about Jessica Lange doing the film, but I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to check that out. Sam is very happy. He likes the picture. His father produced the first two versions.”
Midler has seen the two previous versions of “Stella Dallas.” Belle Bennett starred in the 1926 original, and Barbara Stanwyck turned the 1937 version into a classic.
“Belle wasn’t as good as Barbara. Barbara was the real deal,” Midler said.
Midler’s “Stella” has been expanded and updated. “It’s different enough,” she said. “Of course, you have what Goldwyn calls the set pieces: the birthday party, the scene with the turkey, the scene where Stella goes to the woman who will be her daughter’s stepmother, and the scene where Stella embarrasses her daughter by the way she dresses.
“Then there is the wedding scene. Someone said, `Why didn’t you just walk into the place?’ And I said, `If I did, it wouldn’t be “Stella Dallas.” ‘ If you’re going to do `Stella Dallas,’ you do `Stella Dallas.’ It’s what Olive Higgins Prouty wrote 75 years ago. You either like it or you don’t like it.
“The birthday party scene is in there, and if it’s dated, it’s only because it has been ripped off so many times. I think it’s still valid, but then I don’t see that many movies. I’m still a novice at this.
“The director had second thoughts about the scene in which Stella’s appearance humiliates her daughter at the country club, but that’s `Stella Dallas.’ If you change it, it would be like Scarlett O’Hara saying to Rhett Butler, `Wait a minute! I’m going to go with you.’ ”
There have been stories that Midler would redo another Stanwyck film, “Mad Miss Manton,” but Midler isn’t sure. “I’ve seen a script. I didn’t like it, but that’s the way things go in this business,” she said.
What’s next? “Well, I’m going to work with Woody Allen and Paul Mazursky,” she said. “And I will be reunited with Mark Rydell, who did `The Rose.’ We’re going to do `For the Boys.’ I’ll play an entertainer in it. It will be set during World War II.”