"Something else besides a mother" this was Stella Dallas' excuse to her daughter in order to alienate her bond with her daughter and secure the latter's marriage into the upper class society.
Discussing the key-scenes of the film that reveal the two contradictory roles Stella has undertaken for herself, womanly desire on one hand and motherly duty on the other, and especially concentrating on the last scene of the "happy ending" that actually underlines the fact that such a reconciliation of the two contradictory roles is impossible.
Stella Dallas is a film which has been categorized as a family melodrama, and more precisely a mother-daughter melodrama addressed to bourgeois women audiences, made in 1937 by King Vidor. It is the story of a woman, who becomes a mother; this woman encounters several difficulties in her role as a mother. As a woman, she wants to climb the social ladder, to belong to the upper class and to have fun; she has to be protective, to take care of her daughter.
[...] In this story, Stella tried to live the 'contradiction' between two attitudes, the fulfillment of her role as a woman and as a mother. Of course, at least, her destiny as it is presented in the film raises questions. However, this woman who tried to resist the patriarchal point of view is punished which insist on these patriarchal norms. In the end, she is a passive, suffering heroin, and it illustrates the failure of the female subject in the society. [...]
[...] Stella's point of view in the movie is always disapproved by people who have more power than herself. It is true that the good point in this is that we don't have one controlling point of view, but we can identify to several characters. However, the last word only seldom belongs to Stella who is often contradicted. She is opposed to a very positive feminine character, H. Morrison, who seems to be the perfect wife, perfect mother and perfect woman. [...]
[...] state if this film is rather progressive or if it is imprinted by the conservative ideals of the 1930's patriarchal society. Melodrama is a cinematic genre which prizes virtue and punishes vice, and Stella Dallas is presented as a woman who is shared between these two attitudes. Stella is a young woman coming from the working class, but she is also ambitious and wants to reach the upper class. From the very beginning on, we see this young woman at home; we thus know that the action in melodrama takes place in the sphere of the family. [...]
[...] She comes in his office pretexting that she wants to give her brother his meal, like if she already had some maternal instinct. To marry someone wealthier seems to be the only way she has to climb the social ladder. Then, he takes her out to the cinema, and whereas he is watching her instead of the film, we can already notice that she is really absorbed by the story she sees on the screen, that she lives them through the rich and beloved characters, dancing in balls. [...]
[...] That is what makes this film interesting. Some would argue that the ending of this film is a happy one, but I don't think so. Stella finally doesn't climb the social ladder; she wanted to stay herself in an environment which has rejected her. Because of society and of the judgment of the other, of the power of money, this woman had to give up all she had. This film was made in the late 1930's, and the feminist ideas were not so well spread as today; the film was probably not received with the same critical ideas by the audience, who must have mainly cried at the last scene, seeing this brave woman doing the right thing. [...]
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