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"They drummed you right out of Hollywood.....
on May 11, 2004
...so you come crawling back to Broadway"....
Just one of a myriad of oh-so-quotable lines from the classic VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, based on Jacqueline Susann's steamy pulp-fiction bestseller of 1966. The acting is pure cheese, the script is a paler, watered-down imitation of Susann's text and the songs are God-awful. But there is something about this little gem that draws me in time after time. I could easily watch it once or twice a day and never get bored with it.
The story recounts three girls in New York: Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins - BEAR ISLAND), Neely O'Hara (Patty Duke - THE MIRACLE WORKER) and Jennifer North (Sharon Tate).
Anne has just arrived from small-town Lawrenceville, and landed a job as secretary in an entertainment law-firm. This leads Anne to the acquaintance of Neely, a young up-and-coming Broadway singer who's just been dumped from the new musical starring Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward - I WANT TO LIVE). The reason?...Neely would easily steal the show, and the only star of a Helen Lawson show is Helen Lawson...!
Anne also meets Jennifer, a sweet but by her own admission, talentless showgirl/model. Anne's boss Lyon Burke (Paul Burke) arranges for Neely to sing on a charity telethon, and she quickly lands her own revue at a prominent nightclub. Jennifer marries handsome crooner Tony Polar (Tony Scotti) against the wishes of his sister/manager Miriam (Lee Grant - VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED). Anne then gets discovered by a cosmetics firm and becomes the glamorous 'Gillian Girl'.
The story moves to Hollywood where both Neely and Tony are turned into movie stars. Success comes too fast and easily for Neely who disappears into a heady world of dolls and alcohol. Tony is tragically struck down with a mysterious disease which leaves him paralysed in a sanitarium. To make ends meet, Jennifer becomes an adult-film star.
After going through two failed marriages, Neely hits bottom and is admitted into a rehab center, at Lyon and Anne's behest. With the offer of a new Broadway musical, Neely emerges and quickly finds her feet again, only to break Anne's heart when she claims Lyon for herself. Jennifer quits the porn business and discovers she has breast cancer.
At a party for Helen Lawson's new musical, which bombed out-of-town, Neely and Helen duke it out in the ladies' room, resulting in the famous wig-ripping scene, which is probably the greatest piece in the whole film.
Another great moment is Susan Hayward singing "I'll Plant My Own Tree" standing in the middle of a huge mobile, constructed of broken traffic-lights! Margaret Whiting provided Hayward's singing, though the role of Helen Lawson was originally earmarked for Judy Garland (and the song reeks of Garland influence).
VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is a campy little gem, one that has a HUUUGE and dedicated following. Patty Duke has never eaten so much scenery in any of her subsequent films, Sharon Tate is luminous and Barbara Parkins (aka the Living Mannequin) is just what is called for the role of Anne.
VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. A true classic. Accept no substitutes.