Directed by John M. Stahl

Directed by John M. Stahl

5 Episodes

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.

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Directed by John M. Stahl
  • Directed by John M. Stahl Teaser

    Episode 1

  • Back Street

    Episode 2

    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...

  • Imitation of Life

    Episode 3

    Directed by John M. Stahl • 1934 • United States
    Starring Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Rochelle Hudson

    Adapted from the novel by Fannie Hurst, this groundbreaking look at American racial attitudes traces the complex relationship that develops between Bea Pullman (Claudette Colbert), a wido...

  • Magnificent Obsession

    Episode 4

    Directed by John M. Stahl • 1935 • United States
    Starring Irene Dunne, Robert Taylor, Charles Butterworth

    In the role that launched his career, Robert Taylor stars as an alcoholic playboy who, after his drunken antics inadvertently cause the death of a physician and leave his widow (Irene Dunne)...

  • When Tomorrow Comes

    Episode 5

    Directed by John M. Stahl • 1939 • United States
    Starring Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Barbara O’Neil

    Romance and heartbreak walk hand in hand when concert pianist Philip Chagal (Charles Boyer) meets Helen Lawrence (Irene Dunne) by chance in a restaurant where she works as a waitress. Unhappily m...