Valley of the Dolls

Valley of the Dolls

1967’s Valley of the Dolls (based on the novel by Jaqueline Susann) starred Patty Duke, Sharon Tate, and Barbara Parkins. The movie centers on Anne Welles, Barbara’s character, who comes to New York with hopes of finding a lavish job and fascinating men. Anne finds herself in Manhattan, along with two other super-star, hopefuls : beautiful, Jennifer North (Tate) and talented Neely O’Hara (Duke). All three become fast friends, sharing ambition and hopes for recognition. What happens when they achieve their dreams, is the real story. Susan Hayward plays Helen Lawson, a star in the musical that Neely, is in. Lawson gets her fired because she sees her as a threat. Neely is very talented, so she makes it anyway and Neely pays back Lawson, ala “All About Eve”-style. Jennifer finds love in a suave, night-club singer, Tony. His sister runs the show and initially hates Jennifer, but Tony is in love and they marry. Anne finds success as a model and falls for her ex-boss, lawyer Lyon Burke. They seem to have realized the dreams, they wished for. But, what they all find are dolls. This movie isn’t called “Valley of the Dolls” because of the pretty, cast. “Dolls” were addictive narcotic, pills. Neely seemed to rise the fastest and fall the hardest, because of dolls. Her scenes in rehab, are chilling. Jennifer begins to take the dolls because Tony falls ill and cannot sing, anymore. She numbs herself with pills to do “art films” which Neely describes as “‘art films’!? psh, you mean ‘NUDIES'”, so she can take care of Tony’s doctor bills. Anne falls with the rest of them, but not until the end. She even helps Neely get to rehab and warns Jennifer of their power. The dolls diminish these young, vibrant lives into ashes. We see super-star, Neely ducking out of rehab and into sleazy bars and the end of her scenes, is heart-breaking. Jennifer’s story ends even worse, when she believes death is a better choice than living as an addicted, nude film star. Anne’s story gets worse but, better. Anne and Lyon show that love conquers all (if that’s true, what about poor Jennifer!?). The movie is camp, at times but it is a classic. Patty Duke gives a performance you will never forget and this is one of only a handful of films Sharon made before her murder (especially a starring role). Judy Garland was originally cast as Helen Lawson, but due to her drinking (and Doll addiction) she sometimes was incoherent, on set. She was fired and replaced by, Hayward. Sharon’s death scene is sometimes hard and eerie to watch. Personally, I loved the book and the movie is pretty true, to the novel. It’s a great one and has achieved “cult classic”, status!


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