20 years later, Dee Wallace Stone's "E.T." performance
By Chris Lazzarino
She is a hard-working single mother of three fine children.
Life for her spunky family isn't particularly easy, but neither
is it overly trying. This mom of the house is a woman to be
admired. Perhaps even revered, because in 20 years, she hasn't
aged a day -- even with that ruddy little alien camping out
in her youngest son's closet.
mother portrayed by Dee Wallace Stone, d'71, in Steven Spielberg's
1982 "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," was, at the time
of the landmark movie's release, commonly judged to be an
interesting sidebar to the movie's central theme. In his original
review, Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert, for instance,
only narrowly mentioned that Elliott, the 10-year-old boy
who befriends the abandoned alien, had a mother.
What got lost in the universal delight of discovering E.T.
charming friendship with Elliott is that the center of the
movie wasn't so much the little alien as it was the more general
notion of home. E.T. wants to get to his, in the process reminding
Elliott, Michael and Gertie to treasure the home forged for
them by their mother -- notably (especially in 1982), without
the help of a father, who has abandoned the family to trot
off to Mexico with a younger woman.
As Spielberg re-releases "E.T." for a celebration
of its 20th
anniversary, the message that has prevailed across the chasm
of two monumental decades is: Don't forget to appreciate Mom.
When he reconsidered "E.T." for the March 25 issue
of The New Yorker magazine, critic Anthony Lane noted a crucial
scene when Mary, the mother portrayed by Wallace Stone, finds
her lost son after a scary and lonely night. Wallace Stone's
performance, Lane wrote, "is exquisitely judged-a rushing
embrace, then a spasm of anger for his having put her through
the wringer, then a relieved collapse into love."
Wallace Stone is a Kansas City native who studied acting
and education on Mount Oread. After one year of high-school
teaching in Kansas City, she moved to New York, where she
launched her professional acting career. With "E.T."
as her pinnacle, Wallace Stone has forged a successful professional
home of her own. She has had roles in 85 movies, and eight
years ago launched the Dee Wallace Stone Acting Studio in
She lost her husband of 18 years, Christopher Stone, to a
heart attack in 1995, leaving her alone with their 6-year-old
daughter. Two years later, she met a Los Angeles television
producer and director, Skip Belyea, who became her second
With "E.T." again in theatres, Wallace Stone on
April 5 returned to
Kansas City for an appearance at a special screening at EastGlen
16 in Lee's Summit, and made a similar appearance April 6
"It's about reconnecting and going home," she told
the Wichita Eagle.
"After Sept. 11, it's the perfect time for E.T. to visit
us all again."
She told the Eagle's movie critic, Bob Curtright, that her
moment in "E.T." was the scene when she was putting
away groceries, unaware that the little alien was right there
in the kitchen with her. Mom was so focused on something she
considered important, Wallace Stone said, that she wasn't
paying attention to the things that are truly important. The
scene, she said, should remind us "that parents need
to be there more."
With the rerelease of "E.T.," both fans and critics
are able to step
away from the hysteria that engulfed its 1982 debut. Paying
less attention to the adorable alien and focusing on the simple
messages that mean so much, we find at the heart of the story
a loving, devoted mother giving every ounce of herself to
In the end, we are all reminded-thanks to Wallace Stone's
portrayal of a mother with the weight of the universe on her
shoulders-to phone home. Literally or figuratively, "E.T."
tells us to reconnect with the magic of family, just as Wallace
Stone is doing as her greatest work again plays in movie theatres
around the world.
"I'm never a celebrity at home," she told the Eagle.
"I'm just a
hometown girl. All of Kansas City is my family."