Betteback Interview February 2, 1990: Bette Talks ‘Stella’, Single Moms, Raising Sophie, And Being The Disciplinarian

Syracuse Herald Journal
February 2, 1990



As the title character in “Stella” – the third movie version of the classic melodrama Steila Daiias.” which opens today – Bette Midler i< an unmarried mother who sacrifices everything for her daughter.

“Having a daughter, for a father, is fantastic.” Midler said. “I think for a mother, it’s hell It’s just hell ‘Cause I think they see you as a threat So they turn to the Poppy for comfort and to get out of the way of the mother’s wrath.

“Unless, of course, they happen to be single parents, which so many mothers are nowadays Boy, I give them so much credit. I met a lot of single moms when we were doing this. I interviewed a lot of ladies and boy they are just heroines. I’d like to do a documentary on them.

THEY’RE THE ONES 1 really made this movie for,” Midler said. “They’re the ones who are going to get the most out of it. And thev’re the ones I care about. I don’t care about what anybody else thinks.”

Midler isn’t single any more (she’s married to commodities trader and performance artist Martin Von Hasclberg) but she is a mother – of their 3-year-old daughter. Sophie.

However, Midler said, her maternal relationship to Sophie is understandably quite different from Stella’s selfless devotion to her daughter. Stella, after all. is a lowerclass woman who dedicates her life to boosting her child into a higher social class.

“I haven’t made any sacrifices for my daughter!” said Midler, who was doing interviews at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a few minutes away from her home “We don’t have that kind of life. My whole thing with my child is making sure that she isn’t overloaded with stuff. I try to keep material things from her.

“I try to live in not-too-grand a way. We don’t drive fancy cars. Lots of people send tnings to the house for Christmas for her, and most of them I don’t even want her to see. Because whenever a package comes to the house, she thinks it’s for her.”

PARENTS NATURALLY want the best for their children, to give them “all the things they never had” when they were growing up. But, Midler said, “That’s not good, for a child to grow up thinking that they’re entitled to things Children are not entitled. Everyone has to make their own way in this world. When they have this sense of entitlement, they’re spoiled.”

Stella Dallas.” based on the novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, was first filmed as a silent film in 1925 with Belle Bennett. Ronald Colman, Douglas Fairbanks and Jean Hersholt. King Vidor‘s famous 1937 version of “Stella Dallas” starred the late Barbara Stanwyck, who was nominated for an Academy Award in the title role.

But in the ’30s and ’40s. many of these melodramas about strong women although popular, were often dismissed by critics as cinematic soap operas, “weepies” or “woman’s pictures.”

“I never would denigrate them like that,” Midler said. “I don’t think they deserve that.

In those days. they had a great, great regard for women stars and for the kinds of parts they put them in (The stars) aiso did cheesecake, but they weren’t just window dressing.”

MIDLER is.NoT sure when she first saw Stanwyck’s -Stella Dallas”. “I think I first saw it in the ’60s, when I was living in New York. I seem to recall that I watched it on telly one night. But I didn’t remember very much about it I watched it again before we made this picture It’s wonderful. It still holds up. She (Stanwyck/Stella) still can make you cry ” (Barbara Stanwyck died a few days after this interview.)

Midler said she knows from experience that the relationship between mother and daughter can be very loaded, very charged.”

Midler said she’s cast herself in the role of disciplinarian. “Mv husband keeps telling me, ‘Back off, back off But I say, ‘No! She’s gotta learn this:’ She really tests me. She’s put me through terrible changes And I think, ‘Oh, gee, if she’s doing this at 3. what am I going to go through when she’s 12?’

“I’m afraid that I’ve let her see how much she can get to me. You’re so afraid that you’re making a mistake. And you’re in the grip of this terror. I don’t want to be in the grip of a terror I just wanna be who I am. But they don’t let you be who you are. Just like you won’t let them be who they are. But I’m learning.

“But I sure am having a great time. Despite the fact that I do have heartbreak, I think I do overreact a lot because I have so much invested in this kid. I just love her so much. The rewards are so enormous She’s so funny. When she’s at her best, she’s so fabulous.

And when we tell stories, we explore stuff together and we discuss things – I have a camaraderie with her that I’ve never had with anybody else. It’s so exciting.


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