Master of the 1930s Hollywood melodrama John M. Stahl may be best remembered today for the numerous remakes of his films that Douglas Sirk directed in the 1950s, but this original “women’s picture” specialist was a unique and fascinating artist in his own right. While Sirk’s soap operas are famous for their visual excess and slashing irony, Stahl’s films are models of extraordinary sincerity and restraint that, in their stylistic purity, more closely resemble the work of Danish ascetic Carl Theodor Dreyer than any American counterpart. Addressing taboo issues of extramarital relationships (BACK STREET) and interracial friendship (IMITATION OF LIFE) with supreme sensitivity, these selections from Stahl’s heyday at Universal Pictures are quietly subversive in their empathetic understanding of the social constraints and hypocrisies that shape women’s lives.
Directed by John M. Stahl • 1932 • United States
Starring Irene Dunne, John Boles, George Meeker
The first of three film adaptations Universal made of Fannie Hurst’s tear-jerking novel chronicles the fate-battered relationship of Ray (Irene Dunne) and Walter (John Boles), two star-crossed lovers...