Valley of the Dolls Film Details
Overview: Film version of Jacqueline Susann’s best-selling novel chronicling the rise and fall of three young women in show business.
Tagline: In the Valley of the Dolls, it’s instant turn-on… dolls to put you to sleep at night, kick you awake in the morning, make life seem great – instant love, instant excitement, ultimate hell!
Review: This is an odd movie. Scene by scene, it offers some of the most contrived situations and ludicrous dialogue ever filmed as serious drama – but the whole thing works brilliantly. Admittedly not as the drama it was intended to be, but as the kitschy entertaining spectacle that it has become. Each viewing brings to light yet another hidden nuance of high school scriptwriting and banal directing. The actresses manage to do something with the appalling lines they were given and that’s the big surprise – not that they’re good, but that they are compulsively watchable. Could Patty Duke possibly chew more scenery? Patty’s metamorphisis from the plucky likeable kid with buckets of talent, to the swaggering slut with the world at her feet and a chip on her shoulder, seems to take place at the exact moment the first ‘doll’ passes her lips. As a ‘pitfalls of drugs’ commentary this is about as convincing as “Reefer Madness” but way more entertaining. How is the mystique of Neely explained? Well…. At a telethon Neely proves that she has no dress sense whatsoever, can’t dance to save her life and can make a really bad song sound even worse, yet inexplicably this seems to be her launching pad into a fabulous movie career and my goodness a Grammy! Neely who has already decided her New York apartment is way to small to accomodate her and her quickly sprouting ego, segues seemlessly into the stereotypical Hollywood dream house. How she managed to achieve this is anyone’s guess but this is part of the fun – she doesn’t just become successful, she becomes in the blink of an eye, a superstar on the basis of … what? One or two off-key musical numbers and a dodgy dance routine? Her descent into a booze and doll soaked madness and the consequential destruction of her spectacular career are all part of the fun, and Patty never misses an opportunity to screech a line through the side of her mouth, that could have so simply, by a less dedicated actress, been merely spoken. She gives a sensational trainwreck of a performance, and just try not to watch her give her all. The other side of the coin, is the totally prefabricated Barbara Parkins who woodenly marches across the screen like a Stepford Wife, while spouting a stream of inane and uncalled for dialogue. As Lyon Burke flirts with her for the first time, little Barbara sees her chance and without wasting barely a syllable, has subtly brought the subject of marriage into the conversation. Her mannequin like appearance is seen as the perfect embodiment of the “Gillian Girl” and before you know it, Barbara’s Anne Welles is a famous in her stratosphere as Patty’s Neely O’Hara is in hers. All of it is so hard to believe and only the slightest attempt is made to explain it, so the audience is left with no choice but to just gulp it up. But seriously, would you buy makeup from this woman? But like all great tragediennes, the hell of drug use is ahead of her, and like Neely it only takes one dose and she’s climbing the walls (as woodenly as ever) and then awakes face down but oddly glamorous on the beach of what we should assume is Malibu. “Well that was a close call” you can almost hear her say, and before you can click your heels together she’s back in Laurenceville, melting into the quaintness and rejecting Lyon Burke. When she walks out of her own house into the the snowy landscape you have to wonder how far she walked before she remembered it was her house, and returned, perhaps a little sheepish and embarassed to send Lyon packing. In this scene there would be a moment of “Friends”like confusion as they trade places, probably both trying to squeeze through the door at the same time, and then Barbara would watch through the icy window, perhaps even through a lace curtain as Lyon walked purposefully away and forever out of her life. Her vacuous Barbie dollness would have made him a slave of regret forever. Now that’s part of the fun of “Valley Of The Dolls” – contemplating the scenes that weren’t written. Last but not least in the trio, is the stunning Sharon Tate playing the stunning “all I have is a body” Jennifer. Sharon is genuinely beautiful and she is a completely convincing chorus girl in her flamboyantly overstated headdress. Like Marilyn Monroe she is allowed to make a huge impression walking away from the camera and as far as ‘entrance scenes’ go that’s one that that’s hard to beat. It’s unfortunate that Sharon is saddled with some of the appalling dialogue that runs rampant throughout but she is delicately touching and at least seems to be trying to rise above her material. She hits the right note as a not too talented actress trying to do her best, with limited resources, and untimately at the mercy of the world. She’s not great, but she is good. Her performance is persuasive in several of her scenes and she actually manages to make her character real in a way the other actresses can’t achieve. Watching her it’s very hard to detach from the reality of her fate, and it’s hard to avoid relating Sharon’s real tragedy with Jennifer’s fictional one. She’s very hard to watch, at least on this level. Maybe she would have gone on to bigger and better things, based on the little bit of potential she was able to show – or maybe she would have ended up doing a 5 year stint on “Falcon Crest”. On this performance alone though, she is simply lovely. Finally Susan Hayward. I’ve seen reviews comparing her to Joan Crawford in “The Best Of Everything” or a Margot Channing in decline but I beg to differ. I think she’s Barbara Graham. Scene by scene all I can see is Susan in “I Want To Live” but this time the gutsy tough little broad isn’t waiting on death row, spitting out lines like chewing tobacco. This time she’s on a Broadway stage giving her absolute all – but it’s the same performance basically. Is that bad? No, not at all. It’s fun to see Susan Hayward recycling the tricks and cliches that had been so effective in the past, and creating a montrous gargoyle in the process. What she does have in common with the Joan Crawford role is the element of sadness. It is genuinely sad to see a person having to claw and struggle to survive for no reason other than the fact that the world which had been at her feet has moved on, and started to leave her behind as a relic of something that was once appreciated but is now out of date. What the movie lacks is an emotional connection. The book, tawdry though it was, was well enough written, and the characters were explained. In the book the characters had a bond that had been born during the hard times they’d shared as young bright eyed wannabes. The movie glosses over this so completely that they seem to be little more than acquaintances. Neely rolling around in the alley in her final gutbusting scene is calling out the names of the people who once mattered to her, but what does it mean in the context of the movie, when these relationships are given no chance to be developed? That’s where the movie fails – the gloriously bad writing failed completely to establish an emotional link between the characters. Where it succeeds? – well it’s over the top in a way few movies have managed to be, from Patty’s drug addled harpy listening to her record on a jukebox in a sleazy bar, to Susan Hayward’s brave attempt at avoiding being decapitated by a gaudy mobile while singing one of the worst songs ever inflicted upon an actress or an audience. The magical moments of madness would make quite a list. It’s fun – and that’s all it is – a mindless feast of caricature from the bland to the hysterical, and a time capsule of the 60’s that like much bad art, manages to invoke it’s era, create the illusion of something that never was and to improve with age.
Country: United States
Language: English, French
Duration: 123 min
Genre: Drama, Music, Romance
Also known as: La vallée des poupées,哀愁の花びら,El valle de las muñecas,Valley of the Dolls,Долина кукол,Valle de las muñecas,Dukkernes dal,La valle delle bambole,Dolina lutaka,Bebekler vadisi,Dockornas dal,Leliu slenis,O Vale das Bonecas,De val naar de top,Das Tal der Puppen,I koilada me tis koukles,De val naar de Top,娃娃谷,Dolina lalek,Aishû no hanabira,Dolina na kuklite,Nukkelaakso,Η Κοιλάδα με τις Κούκλες