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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 27.59%
Just Average: 25.86%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 5.17%

3 reviews, 40 user ratings

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Valley of the Dolls
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by Elaine Perrone

"Simply Glorious Trash"
3 stars

A bit player on stage and screen for years, Jacqueline Susann turned, at the age of 44, to writing, promising (or perhaps threatening) to deliver an exposé on substance abuse in Hollywood and on Broadway. When it was published in 1966, Valley of the Dolls was greeted with almost universal scorn by the literary establishment. Truman Capote, for one, deemed it to be “typing, not writing” and described its author as resembling a “truck driver in drag,” before apologizing to all truck drivers for the comparison. Unfazed, the public embraced the gossipy novel for its immense readability, propelling it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and keeping it on the list for 65 consecutive weeks. To this day, Valley of the Dolls remains as one of the Top 10 Bestselling Books of All Time, the only work of fiction on a list that is headed by the Bible and includes Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book and The Guinness Book of Records.

Poor Jackie fared less well when her thinly disguised roman à clef was adapted to the screen.

She badly wanted Bette Davis to play fading Broadway legend Helen Lawson, a character Susann created in retaliation against Ethel Merman, with whom she had once had an ill-fated personal relationship. Instead, that role went to Susan Hayward, best known for her performances in a trio of biopics of, respectively, singers-actresses Jane Froman (With a Song in My Heart, 1952) and Lillian Roth (I’ll Cry Tomorrow, 1955), and convicted murderer Barbara Graham (I Want to Live!), the latter garnering her the Best Actress Oscar for 1958.

Susann envisioned Liza Minnelli playing Neely O’Hara, a character modeled after Minnelli’s own mother, Judy Garland. What she got was Patty Duke, whose career had pretty much peaked at age 16, when she won an Oscar for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.

(In a strange twist of fate, Judy Garland, who had originally been slated to play Helen Lawson, was replaced by Hayward when Garland – depending on who tells the story – walked off the set or was fired.)

The role of Anne Welles, for whom Susann herself was the prototype, went to Barbara Parkins, whose 15 minutes of fame culminated with her participation in the TV series “Peyton Place: The Next Generation” in the 1980s.

Starlet Sharon Tate seemed tailor-made for the role of Jennifer North Polar, a showgirl-turned-starlet with a great body but no talent. Ms. Tate’s only other notable performance was in The Fearless Vampire Killers, directed by Roman Polanski, whom she later married before being brutally slain, along with her and Polanski’s unborn child, by Charles Manson and his minions. Sadly, it is her horrific demise for which she is best remembered.

Upon viewing the screen adaptation of Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann termed it “shit,” a remarkably apt appraisal of this paean to atrocious acting, puerile screenwriting, and sloppy editing. (It is astonishing to note that editor Dorothy Spencer, whose credits include such classics as My Darling Clementine, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and Ernst Lubitsch’s Heaven Can Wait, couldn’t seem to figure out what to do with an unintentionally hilarious scene featuring a set of wildly swinging beads doing battle with Patty Duke’s tits.)

Luckily for me, I was able to view Valley of the Dolls in the perfect setting in which to fully appreciate its glorious trashiness. Projected on the big screen, in a packed house of predominantly gays and lesbians (several in drag) out for GLAMN (Gay and Lesbian Alternative Movie Night), the experience was even more greatly enhanced by the raucous audience participation and a delightful running commentary by self-proclaimed “Doll-phile” Ron Anders, who asserts the movie changed his life when he first saw it as a boy with his parents in New York, and who professes to having seen it about 200 times.

Thanks to Ron, we were given plenty of caution to plant our feet firmly on the floor and “breathe” just before those moments when the action and/or dialogue turned their most giddily awful – a few representative examples being one in a nursing sanitarium, depicting a tearful duet between Neely O’Hara and a semi-vegetative man in a wheelchair; another in which Neely and Helen Lawson engage in a catfight in a restroom, resulting in the demise of a perfectly lovely red bouffant wig; and (perhaps the pièce de résistance) a soliloquy by Neely (and yes, Patty Duke does have all the “choice” material) invoking all her friends, ex-husbands, and God as she crashes amid the garbage cans (heavy symbolism, that!) in an alley.

Watching Truly Bad Movies doesn’t get much better than this.

Final Grade(s): For artistic merit - 2 Stars / For (not-the-least-bit) guilty pleasure merit - 5 Stars

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5248&reviewer=376
originally posted: 01/30/06 04:12:20
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User Comments

7/15/20 Louise (the real one) 'I plant my own tree, and I make it GROW!!!' 4 stars
2/06/16 Rich Hammondy Well. I finally sat down and watched this "movie" today and it is horrible! 1 stars
6/24/15 Mike B Sad..Patty Duke with not 1/18th the talent of Judy Garland trying to play Judy Garland. 1 stars
2/10/12 elmer "The film goes a simple chick flick." What does this mean? 5 stars
11/16/11 Golden J. Williams Jr. Good movie, even better music. 5 stars
3/22/10 Peter Roberts Barbara Parkins Is so beautiful!!! 5 stars
10/20/08 Monster A Go-Go Gotta have my dolls, so "I can sparkle, Neely! Sparkle!"High camp saves this trash classic 5 stars
7/27/08 tonygant My fav flick of ALL time. I love Neely and the girls. 5 stars
5/09/08 Philip Turo The screenplay was better than the book, if you were short of toilet paper and had to chose 5 stars
12/05/07 Philip Turo Now that the movie is sort of out of the closet, it is not so great 4 stars
11/29/07 iggy Barbara parkins is just to beautiful-a WOW! 5 stars
10/26/07 Philip Turo It's Camp, and started out being made as serious drama. The worst relevant movie ever made! 5 stars
2/05/07 Randy Friedman The beautiful Barbara Parkins (Peyton Place) made the movie! 5 stars
10/18/06 Andy Zambella Great movie with the great Barbara Parkins. Love her! 5 stars
6/28/06 Philip Turo It is the best fucking movie ever made to watch when you are high 5 stars
2/04/06 Shawn Gadberry The ultimate bad movie--one of my all-time favorite films! I need my DOLLS! 5 stars
9/30/05 Saturated Phat Barbara Parkins was beautiful, Patty Duke over-the-top, & Sue Hayward extra dykie. 5 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins Dated, soapy, over the top and guilty fun. 4 stars
7/07/05 Sarah Frasier I thought this movie was fascinating in how the women were portrayed. 4 stars
4/27/05 Carolyn Rathburn Honest, sometimes too honest 4 stars
9/03/04 T.B. Patty Duke did a great job 4 stars
4/05/04 K.C. Patty Duke is fun to watch 4 stars
9/24/03 fern the movie is very poor in comparison to the novel. Jaqueline Susann was very angry tosee it 3 stars
6/26/03 Carlton Stovall Pure Genius! Patty Duke rules! Big hair and all! 5 stars
5/13/03 dana i love the song "come live with me" 4 stars
5/08/03 Andrew Carden Excellent Screenplay, Great Cast and Hot Babes. Susann...You Are My Hero. 5 stars
12/02/02 mr. Pink "I'm merely travelling incognito!!!" Really, really bad!!!!!!!!!! But fun! 4 stars
9/17/02 Gary Bristow What you have to understand is that this film spoke to the generation that it was produced 4 stars
8/24/02 Julie Nijak I love this piece of shit movie. I admit I've seen better but sometimes it's fun to watch . 3 stars
7/26/02 I Can't Swim 'That old witch oughta be boiled in oil'! Roll a bone, watch ladies overact wildly! 5 stars
6/28/02 John G. Gannatti Patty Duke is THE reason to see this cult favorite. She portrays Singer Neely O'Hara 5 stars
5/17/02 Roszzy My favorite movie 5 stars
1/21/02 Flipdraw McGraw "Sparkle, Neely, sparkle!!!" It's advice for life. 5 stars
9/11/01 Butterbean Dukes shows us how she got her "The Miracle Worker" Oscar and overdid it. It's great! 3 stars
6/15/01 Bada Bing Crosby Indispensable trash that is classically laughable; some of the best overacting is here 5 stars
4/15/01 GeorgE McCaul I think its great because Sharon Tate was in it. Patty Dukes final alley scene is priceless 5 stars
4/14/01 Carmen Very good movie 5 stars
3/24/01 Klute Overhyped, underserved. 1 stars
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  DVD: 13-Jun-2006



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