Valley of the Dolls (film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Valley of the Dolls is a 1967 American drama film based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Jacqueline Susann. ("Dolls" was a slang term for downers, mood-altering drugs.) It was produced by David Weisbart and directed by Mark Robson.

The film stars Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Sharon Tate, Paul Burke, Martin Milner and Susan Hayward.

Upon release it was a commercial success, though universally panned by critics. It was re-released in 1969 following the murder of Sharon Tate, and again proved commercially viable. Co-star Parkins, attending a July 1997 screening of the film at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, told the sold-out crowd, "I know why you like it...because it's so bad!"

The movie was remade in 1981 for television as Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls.


Three young women meet when they embark on their careers. Neely O'Hara (Duke) is a plucky kid with undeniable talent who sings in a Broadway show, the legendary actress Helen Lawson (Hayward) is the star of the play, and Jennifer North (Tate), a beautiful blonde with limited talent, is in the chorus. Anne Welles (Parkins) is a New England ingenue who recently arrived in New York City and works for a theatrical agency that represents Helen Lawson. Neely, Jennifer, and Anne become fast friends, sharing the bonds of ambition and the tendency to fall in love with the wrong men.

O'Hara is fired from the show because Lawson considers her a threat. Assisted by Lyon Burke, an attorney from Anne's theatrical agency, she makes appearances on telethons and other small but noticeable events. She becomes an overnight success and moves to Hollywood to pursue a lucrative film career. Once she's a star, though, Neely not only duplicates the egotistical behavior of Lawson, she also falls victim to the eponymous "dolls": prescription drugs, particularly the barbiturates Seconal and Nembutal and various stimulants. She betrays her husband (Milner), her career is shattered by erratic behavior and she is committed to a sanitarium.

Jennifer has followed Neely's path to Hollywood, where she marries nightclub singer Tony Polar (Tony Scotti) and becomes pregnant. When she learns that he has the hereditary condition Huntington's chorea, a fact his domineering half-sister and manager Miriam (Lee Grant) had been concealing, Jennifer has an abortion. Faced with Tony's mounting medical expenses, Jennifer finds herself working in French "art films" (which was actually extremely tame soft-core pornography) to pay the bills.

Anne, having become a highly successful model, also falls under the allure of "dolls" to escape her doomed relationship with cad Lyon Burke (Burke), who has an affair with Neely.

Jennifer is diagnosed with breast cancer and needs a mastectomy. Jennifer phones her mother, seeking moral support. The mother is only concerned with the reaction from her friends at Jennifer's "art films." The mother also reminds Jennifer of her own financial needs. Faced with this, Jennifer succumbs to depression and commits suicide with an overdose of "dolls." With the money from her life insurance plus his own savings, Tony is able to spend the rest of his life in a sanitarium where he is well cared for. Neely, committed to the same institution to recover from her addictions, meets him there and they sing a duet at one of the sanitarium's weekly parties.

Neely is released from the sanitarium and given a chance to resurrect her career, but the attraction of "dolls" and alcohol proves too strong and she spirals into a hellish decline.

Anne abandons drugs and her unfaithful lover and returns to New England. Lyon Burke ends his affair with Neely and asks Anne to marry him, but she is moving on with her life.



The ending to the film was changed dramatically from the novel. In the film, Anne and Lyon never marry and do not have a child together. Rather, she leaves Lyon and returns to Lawrenceville, which is described as the one place she found real happiness. Lyon later visits her to propose but she refuses. These last-minute changes in the script, so out of keeping with Anne's established character (well known to millions of readers), resulted in original screenwriter Harlan Ellison, who wanted to keep the original downbeat ending, removing his name and credit from the film.

Judy Garland was originally cast as Helen Lawson, but was fired when she came to work drunk; Susan Hayward replaced her in the role after production had already begun. On July 20, 2009, Patty Duke appeared at the Castro Theater in San Francisco with a benefit screening of the film, and said that director Mark Robson made Garland wait from 8am to 4pm before filming her scenes for the day, knowing that Garland would be upset and drunk by that time.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a 1970 satirical pastiche, was filmed by Twentieth Century-Fox while the studio was being sued by Jacqueline Susann, according to Irving Mansfield's book Jackie and Me. Susann created the title for a Jean Holloway-scripted sequel that was rejected by the studio, which allowed Russ Meyer to film a radically different movie with the same title. The suit went to court after Susann's death in 1974; the estate won damages for $2 million against Fox.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Valley of the Dolls (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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