Bette Midler stars as Stella Claire, a working-class, fun-loving barmaid in northern New York State. A brief affair with handsome Stephen Dallas (Stephen Collins) produces a daughter, Jenny (Trini Alvarado), whom Stella insists upon raising alone, despite Dallas' marriage offer. As the years pass, Stella and Jenny are a happy pair. Stella gives up bartending to sell cosmetics, supported by her friend Ed (John Goodman), a bartender developing a crush on her and a problem with alcohol. Dallas has stayed involved with his beloved daughter from afar and is now a urologist in New York City, engaged to a book editor (Marsha Mason). As Jenny reaches adulthood, Stella becomes aware that life with her father would provide her daughter with opportunities that she'd never have otherwise, so she devises a painful, self-sacrificing scheme to drive Jenny from the nest. Although functional as a tearjerker, many of the themes in Stella simply don't make as much sense in a modern age of healthy, fractured families, muting the drama of the tale's earlier versions, specifically Stella Dallas (1937).