Stella Dallas

(Not much about language.)

Today’s Zippy summarizes the 1937 movie Stella Dallas, with screenplay by Harry Wagstaff Gribble (a name that undoubtedly attracted the cartoonist Bill Griffith):

On the movie:

Stella Dallas is a 1937 American film based on the Olive Higgins Prouty novel of the same name. It was directed by King Vidor, and stars Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, and Anne Shirley. Stanwyck was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Shirley for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. (link)

On Gribble, from the 1/30/81 obit for him in the NYT:

Harry Wagstaff Gribble, director of the 1944 hit play ”Anna Lucasta,” died Wednesday night in Lenox Hill Hospital. He was 90 years old and lived at 349 East 49th Street.

Mr. Gribble, who began his career as an actor after leaving Cambridge University in 1912, was also the producer-director in 1940 of ”Johnny Belinda,” about a deaf-mute young woman who has a child out of wedlock. The play was made into the film starring Jane Wyman. Mr. Gribble also wrote the screenplay for King Vidor’s ”Stella Dallas” (1937), in which Barbara Stanwyck played the title role.

After financial reverses halted his education, Mr. Gribble left his native England and toured South Africa and the American West with the famed Mrs. Patrick Campbell in ”Pygmalion,” which George Bernard Shaw had written for her. The experience led him to write ”The Outrageous Mrs. Palmer,” which was presented on Broadway in 1920.

In the interim, Mr. Gribble was a machine-gunner with the 27th Infantry Division in France and was cited for heroism in the MeuseArgonne offensive.

Mr. Gribble next wrote ”March Hares,” a farce presented on Broadway in 1920. It was followed by farces and revues, including ”Artists and Models” and dramas, among which was ”Elizabeth and Essex” in 1930.

After seeing ”Anna Lucasta” produced at the American Negro Theater in Harlem, Mr. Gribble assisted the playwright, Philip Yordan, in rewriting it, and brought it to Broadway in a production starring Hilda Simms as the prostitute of the title. Canada Lee and Earl Hyman were also in the cast.

Mr. Gribble’s final theatrical activity returned him to the stage in 1956 when he appeared in ”The Thorntons,” a comedy-drama. The New York Times described it as ”lightweight” but praised his performance and that of the star, Ruth Warrick.

Mr. Gribble, who never married, had no immediate survivors. He will be buried in England. A service will be held in New York.

Further details on the website for a University of Texas – Austin exhibition on Greenwich Village bohemians in 1920-25:

The prominent playwright, director, actor, and screenwriter Harry Wagstaff Gribble (1896-1981) was born in the English county of Kent to a family who frowned upon the theater. Throughout his first job as an accountant, and a brief stint at Cambridge, Gribble nursed secret ambitions for the stage, which he finally pursued by joining a Liverpool repertoire company. After touring Africa with a fellow actor in 1913 and 1914, and being rejected from the army on his return home, Gribble moved to New York City in December of 1914. Though his first few months there were rocky, he eventually found a job touring with the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell in Pygmalion and The Second Mrs. Tanqueray. The difficulties of dealing with a demanding performer furnished material for his first full-length play several years later, The Outrageous Mrs. Palmer (1920). But Gribble was by no means idle in the intervening years: his enlistment with the 27th Division of the U.S. Army, oddly enough, created an outlet for his considerable talents. After just nine months in camp he directed fellow soldiers and starred in the Broadway musical production You Know Me, Al! (1918). Known as the Army’s most successful play, it grossed $50,000 in four weeks. Gribble subsequently enjoyed a long Broadway career, writing several of his own plays and directing close to thirty. His skills translated well into film; his screenplay credits include Our Betters (1933), Stella Dallas (1937), and A Bill of Divorcement (1932), Katherine Hepburn’s screen debut. Gribble’s play All Gummed Up is included in Frank Shay’s Twenty Contemporary One-Act Plays (1922), alongside works by Floyd Dell, Christopher Morley, Susan Glaspell and George Cram Cook, Eugene O’Neill, and Lawrence La[n]gner.

One Response to “Stella Dallas”

  1. meet cute | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] continues his fixation on Barbara Stanwyck movies. Yesterday it was Stella Dallas (1937), today it’s Double Indemnity […]

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