This late-'80s remake of a classic film brought Bette Midler, John Goodman, and bad-ass greaser Ben Stiller to our fair city.
Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.
After she made Beaches, Bette Midler was queen of the three-hanky tearjerker. And when she came to town in 1989 to film Stella, we were still new enough to the whole Hollywood North thing to be excited about such matters.
The movie is based on the Barbara Stanwyck classic Stella Dallas, which is kind of funny because we profiled another failed, Toronto-shot remake of a classic last time out. But people don’t learn, folks. They just keep trying. The good news is that most of the time these movies just get lost in the mists of time, until someone like us drags them up to the surface.
Rather atypically, Toronto here is doubling for Watertown, New York which, if you don’t know, is basically right across the border from Kingston. We don’t want to offend the fine people of Watertown but they kinda used the seedier side of Toronto to portray it. Like, here’s one of our favourite dive locations, from the opening credits. We’re looking down Cherry Street…
…and panning over to the always great Canary Restaurant.
They also go to a concert at this rather fancier venue, actually the Hart House Theatre at University of Toronto.
Hey, who is that familiar face crossing the Junction’s Wallace Avenue footbridge with Bette Midler at night?
Why, it's pre-Roseanne John Goodman, who also visited in his younger days for Sea of Love!
Here he is getting in a bar fight…
…at the Silver Dollar!
And here are the cinematic cops outside the Silver Dollar!
And who is this bad-ass greaser?
Oh, hey, it’s Ben Stiller! Who has never before or since been cast as a bad-ass greaser! But it’s nice to see him.
Here he is picking up girlfriend Trini Alvarado at Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute near Donlands Station. You can tell he’s a bad-ass greaser because he drives a black Trans-Am. Where were we?
Oh, right—here’s the interior of Eastern Commerce…
…as well as the Divine Miss M strolling out the front door.
To film an authentic bingo scene you need the basement of a church, like Riverdale’s Metropolitan Community Church.
This is a bit cool, as it’s actually Victoria Memorial Square. What was once kind of seedy and weird is now smack in the middle of the gentrified King West area.
It’s interesting to look around and see how things are looking up now compared to what you see in this movie.
Yeah, a lot of things have changed since they shot this movie. But not how bad the movie is.