For, Dec. 13, 2013

After having been out of print for several years, "Stella Dallas" (1937) makes its return to DVD this week, part of Warner Home Video and Warner Archives' newly reissued Samuel Goldwyn titles.

Barbara Stanwyck earned the first of her four best-actress Academy Award nominations as the title character. (Her subsequent nominations were for in 1942 for "Ball of Fire," 1945 for "Double Indemnity" and 1949 for "Sorry, Wrong Number." She received a special lifetime-achievement Oscar in 1982.)

"Stella Dallas" casts Stanwyck as a self-sacrificing mother whose background and manner prevent her from rising to the level of sophistication achieved by her daughter, which makes her an embarrassment. But she ultimately accepts her fate and gives up everything for her only child.

This is high soap opera, no question, but it has that 1930s Hollywood polish and gloss, with a strong supporting cast and exceptional production values.

But most of all it has Stanwyck, whose earnest performance sells the film. She's operating on all cylinders and is absolutely magnificent.

Aside from the three excellent films named above, Stanwyck also stars in several others worth seeking out — "The Lady Eve" (1940), a hilarious comedy co-starring Henry Fonda; "Meet John Doe" (1940), a Frank Capra drama with Gary Cooper; "Titanic" (1953), "Executive Suite" (1954) and the horror film "The Night Walker" (1964), which cast her opposite her ex-husband Robert Taylor.

And, of course, her Western classics: "Annie Oakley" (1935), "Union Pacific" (1939), "The Furies" (1950) and "Forty Guns" (1957).

There are also a couple of Christmas films that show up each year at this time, the comedy "Christmas in Connecticut" (1945) and the more serious "Remember the Night" (1940).