CAROLE LOMBARD - My Favorite Actress

Saturday, July 14, 2012

VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967) is a pure delight

For this evening's movie I watched Valley of the Dolls (1967), a recent purchase from good old Amazon. I hadn't seen Dolls in over 15 years so it was like a new experience to me. And I know that most movie watchers regard it as trashy and campy. Me? I think it's awesome. And it's not like this film is not surrounded with a crazy amount of talent. Patty Duke...Oscar winner. Director Mark Robson, who has helmed such films as Peyton Place, The Inn Of Sixth Happiness, Von Ryan's Express, The Harder They Fall and My Foolish Heart to name just a few. Mega film composer John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, Jaws). Another Oscar winner in Lee Grant. Rising star Sharon Tate, before her untimely death. The film debut of Richard Dreyfuss. And veteran film star Susan Hayward in one of her final roles. Add all that up and you have an insane amount of talent for a supposedly trash film. I for one never for an instance felt that it was anything less than a stellar drama that had me hooked from the opening title credits with the theme song performed by Dionne Warwick.

Wide eyed Anne on her way to New York

Based on Jacqueline Susann's real life experiences of being an actress from the late 30's to the late 50's who turned into quite the writer. The story focuses on three different young women all aiming to make it big in show business. Small town girl Anne Welles (played by Barbara Parkins) fresh out of college heads to New York and Broadway hoping to land an exciting job and a sophisticated man. She starts out as a secretary for a theatrical attorney. She will soon meet up with the other two young women of this film. One Miss Neely O'Hara (Patty Duke not holding back one bit as the star waiting in the wings of veteran Helen Lawson, played by Susan Hayward). And then there's Jennifer North (Sharon Tate) who knows where her talents lie...her body measurements. These three path's intersect all through-out the movie and it's quite a ride. 

Neely in a quieter moment
Neely in a not so quiet moment

Once Neely makes it big time, she becomes hooked on booze and pills..the pills are called dolls. And she goes thru the wringer, lashing out at everyone, suffering thru two failed marriages and spending time in a sanitarium. Anne ends up falling for agent Lyon Burke (played by David Burke) who is afraid to commit to her and ends up leaving and coming back to her several times after messing around with other women. Jennifer meets and weds nightclub singer Tony Polar (played by Tony Scotti) who lives under the domineering rule of his older sister Miriam (played by Lee Grant). Tony winds up with a heredity disease that leaves him crippled and Jennifer must make French art films (i.e nudie pics) to pay for his treatment). It's ironic that Neely winds up at the same place Tony is at and they get together for a rousing number of Come Live With Me that used to Tony's trademark song that he performed at nightclubs. It's one hell of an emotional scene.
Tony and Jennifer

Like I said, I know most people write this film off as campy but if it is camp, then it is grade A camp. While all three leads give good performances with Patty Duke raging and ripping through everybody, I thought Sharon Tate comes off the best. Her frequent conversations with her mother over the phone involving money are really good. And her final scene shows the potential Sharon had to become a major actress if not for her tragic real life death. I argue that scene will convince anyone that Sharon could really act and was not just a pretty face. Barbara Parkins is really good too as she may not get the flashy part like Duke, but she has an emotional scene towards the end of the film that is heart-breaking and powerful.

Old school Helen Lawson

So if anyone has never seen this film and stayed away because of all the negative talk toward I suggest you try watching it now and you will be pleasantly surprised how good it really is. Filled with tons of memorable lines such as:

Jennifer: French subtitles across a bare bottom does not make it an art film.

Neely: Boobies, boobies, boobies. Nothin' but boobies. Who needs 'em? 

Anne: Neely, you know it's bad to take liquor with those pills. 
Neely: They work faster.

Neely: I have to get up at five o'clock in the morning and SPARKLE, Neely, SPARKLE!" 

Jennifer all to herself


Irene Palfy said...

awesome, awesome, AWESOME, Monty!! Thank you for this wonderful, wonderful post!! You did such a great piece of work here.. I am highly impressed! LOVE it!! :")

monty said...

Thank you very much Irene! Glad you liked it!

Kristen said...

Have had this on my Netflix queue for awhile, glad to know you recommend it!

Dawn said...

It has been a long time since I have seen this campy film..


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