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Stardom is a safe "Bette!"
New beginnings for Bette Midler
Hollywood - Stella is a hell of a woman with a long
history on the silver screen.
Director Henry King's 1925 version of 'Stella Dallas' with
Belle Bennett was once characterized as "a standard weepy
complete with an 'out-into-the-cold-cold-snow' ending"
that nevertheless managed to become "a seminal film" of
the silent era.

Director King Vidor's 1937 version of 'Stella Dallas' with Barbara Stanwyck was dubbed "fashionable remake with excellent talent - audiences came to sneer and stayed to weep."  Stanwyck earned an Academy Award nomination and enhanced her stardom.  The film, even with its obvious manipulations, still packs a wallop.

In John Erman's 1990 version, the title is shortened to "Stella"
because the social-climbing anti-heroine doesn't marry Mr.
Dallas this time.  She is an unwed mother.  The tale is updated
to the eighties.  But it brings the same extraordinarily compelling
loser back to the screen.
And Bette Midler is the latest to tackle her complexities and
contradictions.  The uncouth but heroically self-sacrificing
Stella still gives up her daughter to the father for the child's
"I tell you," Midler told me as she geared up to shoot the
movie in Toronto, "it is a fabulous script.  It is a wonderful,
wonderful script and you don't get a piece of material that
is as well-written as that very often.  And it's modernized
and updated."
The idea of a remake doesn't bother - not publicly anyway.
Only the critics will worry about comparisons with Stanywck's
indelible performance in the Vidor picture, Midler says.  "You
people will, but there are two generations underneath who
have never heard of 'Stella Dallas,' who have never seen it.
And I think it will be good for them to see it."
At 45, the acid-tongued but warm-hearted Midler is more
vulnerable than ever, especially as the mother of three-year-
old Sophie Frederica Alohilani von Haselberg, her daughter
by bohemian husband Martin von Haselberg.  The "Stella"
script was guaranteed to get to her emotionally.
"You know," she concurs, "I had the same reaction to 'Stella'
that I did to 'Beaches,' which is, I sobbed uncontrollably for
the first 60 pages.  I had a meeting with the director and he
was completely aghast.  I started to talk to him about various
scenes and pretty soon I broke down.  They had to hand me
the Kleenx.  I was just awash."
"I mean, there's something very primal about the mother-
daughter experience.  Of course, I know that because I'm
going through that now.  And I was very attached to my
own mother - terribly, terribly attached.  I worshipped
my own mother."
"It's so primal.  It's the very basis for my whole being.  
It's undeniable."
The new 'Stella' contains some humor.  That's standard with
a Midler picture.  But it is still, as you can discern from 
Midler's own comments, primarily a drama - with no
apologies from Midler or screenwriter Robert Getchell.
On set in Toronto, Midler went into virtual seclusion to
concentrate on her role.  But she did spend a few minutes
one afternoon explaining her interest in realism to the
'New York Times.'  That day, she took stock of her plain,
working class clothes.
"The challenge was to strike the right tone, to keep it
real," she said.  "These clothes weren't made.  They came
off the rack.  Barbara Stanwyck was very, very endearing,
but she was so out-to-lunch with her clothes.  Poor 
people, even if they're sewing, don't have money
to dress like that."
There were other touches that will show in the film.  Midler
shed 20 pounds of fat to play 'Stella' as a young woman.
For the older Stella - the one who sends her teenaged
daughter off to New York City from their small-town
upstate squalor to escape the child's poverty - drug cycle -
the weight was put back on through the disquise of body
pads and faked varicose veins.  No glamour girl in this one.
She smiles cockily, "I'm sure," she says of the 
movie's chances.
"Marquee" Magazine
February 1990







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