BetteBack May 31, 1989: Bette Midler Is The Reason To Redo ‘Stella Dallas’

Salina Journal
May 31, 1989


TORONTO (AP) – It’s 1937, and Barbara Stanwyck playing the outcast Stella Dallas watches from outside as her daughter gets married. It
is one of Hollywood’s classic tearjerking scenes.

Flash forward to 1989. The feisty, funny Bette Midler is starring in a remake that the production team says updates the old concepts of high society but keeps the basic story intact.

So, instead of Midler 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.

The handkerchiefs, though, will still be needed. At the end, just as her predecessor did, Midler will be watching from outside at her daughter’s elegant New York wedding.

“I think the old movie was really about class distinction,” said director John Erman said. “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. He produced the King Vidor version in 1937 starring Stanwyck, who was nominated for an Academy Award.

The Samuel Goldwyn Co. held the rights. Now, Samuel Goldwyn Jr. is co-producing the new movie with Touchstone Pictures.

Goldwyn traces the idea to remake the movie back to 1986. He said he didn’t intend to get involved in a coproduction but the chance to get Midler as the film’s star was too good to pass up.

“She’s really become a reason to redo the picture,” he said.

As for the script, Goldwyn said that the original movie’s reliance on the class system wouldn’t totally work today but the emotional scenes still do.

Among the “set pieces,” as he called them, are the birthday party for the daughter to which nobody comes, and the famous ending.

He, and others involved in making the movie, say there’s no doubt that some sort of class system still exists even if it is not as ironclad as in the earlier part of the century.

The new version ranges from 1969 to the present. Midler plays a bartender in a small upstate New York town, who meets rich New Yorker
Steven Dallas while he is a medical student in the area. She gets pregnant, he backs off, she brings up their daughter without any help. That, of course, is just the start.

“It’s Bette’s picture all the way,” said actor Stephen Collins, who plays Steven Dallas.

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