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Selected Videographic Essays and Criticism by Catherine Grant

Women's Wash Room


"In the earlier film version of STELLA DALLAS [Henry King, 1925], the overwrought Stella takes refuge in the ladies’ waiting room at the train station directly after her visit to Helen [the woman to whom she has just entrusted her daughter]. She’s watched very closely by a woman whose flashy dress indicates her similarity to Stella in class status, if not in her dubious profession. The stranger offers the apparently inconsolable Stella a cigarette, and Stella puts it in her mouth and lights it end to end with the cigarette in the other woman’s mouth. A fade to black gives the gesture—which resembles a kiss—an elliptical significance, though nothing else is made of this scene. The shot echoes with Stella’s connection to Helen in the previous scene. But the silent version of STELLA DALLAS suggests that such sympathy, and women’s motives, need not be reduced to shared maternal feeling. The washroom “pick-up” scene doesn’t occur in the [original 1922 source novel STELLA DALLAS by Olive Higgins Prouty].

QUOTATION: Patricia White, UNINVITED: CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD CINEMA AND LESBIAN REPRESENTABILITY (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999), pp. 107-8.

MUSIC: “Phantasm” by Kai Engel (licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License:

VIDEO: Catherine Grant, January 2015

C. Grant, ‘The Marriages of Laurel Dallas. Or, The Maternal Melodrama of the Unknown Feminist Film Spectator’, MEDIASCAPE: UCLA’s Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Fall 2014. [Video and text]. ISSN 1558478X Online at:

C. Grant, ‘The Remix That Knew Too Much? On Rebecca, Retrospectatorship and the Making of Rites of Passage’, THE CINE-FILES: A Scholarly Journal of Cinema Studies, Fall 2014. [Video and text]. ISSN 2156-9096. Online at: