VALLEY OF THE DOLLS
(director: Mark Robson; screenwriters: Helen Deutsch /Dorothy Kingsley/from book by Jacqueline Susann; cinematographer: William H. Daniels; editor: Dorothy Spencer; cast: Barbara Parkins (Anne Welles), Paul Burke (Lyon Burke), Patty Duke (Neely O’Hara), Sharon Tate (Jennifer North), Susan Hayward (Helen Lawson), Tony Scotti (Tony Polar), Martin Milner (Mel Anderson), Charles Drake (Kevin Gillmore), Alexander Davion (Ted Casablanca), Lee Grant (Miriam Polar); Runtime: 123; 20th-Century Fox; 1967)
“You’ll need some kind of a pill to sit through this soap opera dreck.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
You’ll need some kind of a pill to sit through this soap opera dreck. “Valley”… has become recognized as the ultimate in trash pics. It’s a film mired in banality and risible dialogue. The film is based on Jacqueline Susann’s best-seller. It tells the vulgar story of three young women — Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins), Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke), and Jennifer North (Sharon Tate) — who are on the fast track to fame and fortune. It also tells about their pitfalls due to: drugs, booze, egomania, suicide, disillusionment, and an incurable disease.
Anne Welles leaves her ideal small-town New England home and secures work with a NYC theatrical law firm as a secretary. She falls for Lothario booking agent Lyon Burke (Paul Burke), but he jilts her to write a book. Along comes millionaire hair dressing manufacturer Kevin Gillmore (Drake), who makes her his exclusive product model and his steady date. When she hooks up with Lyon again, he jilts her again. Disillusioned with the flashy world of showbiz, she returns to New England and says she has found where she belongs. She does this, after she has the satisfaction of dumping Lyon when he comes courting her again for round three.
Neely O’Hara is the girl with the most acting talent, who is first spotted by agent Lyon when she gets axed from a Broadway show by aging actress Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward). Helen’s jealous of the newcomer’s ability to belt out a song and doesn’t want her stealing the show. Neely claws her way to the top, anyway, and marries nice guy Mel (Milner). But when she becomes a big star, she dumps on him and acts over-the-top bitchy. Divorced from Mel, she lives with sycophant Ted Casablanca (Davion) and becomes addicted to pills (called “dolls”) and booze. She becomes so badly addicted that she can’t perform anymore and goes to a sanitarium to dry out. Lyon still is hot for her and gets her a Broadway starring role for her expected comeback, and deserts nice girl Anne for the bitchy star. Loneliness will be the retribution for Neely, as Lyon soon has enough of her bitchy antics and walks out on her.
Jennifer North is trying to support her demanding mother in Milwaukee. She has no talent but has a great body. She falls in love with nightclub singer Tony Polar (Tony Scotti), but after they’re married she learns why his theatrical agent sister (Le Grant) is so protective of him: he has an incurable disease. When he goes to the expensive Hollywood sanitarium to live out his life as a vegetable, she foots the bills by going to Paris to work in ‘nudie’ films. Life becomes unbearable for her when she discovers she needs an operation that will disfigure her precious body. She settles things by committing suicide.
The best scene is when Susan Hayward and Patty Duke get into a cat fight in the fancy ladies’ room, where they are both attending a reception for Hayward’s new play. She steals Hayward’s wig and calls her granny. Susan retaliates with this barb: “They drummed you out of Hollywood, so you come crawling back to Broadway. But Broadway doesn’t go for booze and dope – now get out of my way, I’ve got a man waiting for me.”
Another sample of the film’s trite dialogue goes like this: Agent: “It’s a rotten business.” Neely: “But I love it.”
This cliché-ridden film is as bad as these types of films ever get. But some have embraced it for its campiness. Suit yourself! I can’t see a fan of Hollywood films ignoring an infamous classic pic like this one forever. It is interesting to note, that all the men the girls become associated with are either: gay, sick, cheats, mean to them, or just plain wimps. That’s showbiz I guess, according to the Valley of the Dolls. You should love the pic’s bad acting by everyone except Hayward, who has too much class for this trashy film!
REVIEWED ON 6/4/2001 GRADE: C-