Valley of the Dolls (1967)

valley of the dolls 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: The dolls are pills.

Usually when sites commemorate Sharon Tate it is on the anniversary of her murder, which is in August, but I decided to do things differently and talk about her in January when she was born. Had she lived she would have turned 71 this year and each Sunday this month I will review a 60’s film that she was in.

This one is probably her most well recognized part and it’s based on the bestselling novel by Jacqueline Susann who appears briefly as a reporter. Here Tate plays Jennifer North a woman with ‘no talent’ who must use her body and looks to get where she wants and she is constantly reminded of it by her mother who regularly calls to make sure she is doing her ‘breast exercises’. Eventually she stars in nudie films, which leads to a self-destructive downward slide. Patty Duke is Neely O’Hara a talented young singer who finds climbing to the top can be laced with drugs, alcohol and jealousy. Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins) makes up the third part of the trio as a small town girl who comes to the city looking for excitement, but finds more than she bargained for and eventually leaves.

If there is one thing that saves this otherwise trashy, standard script it is Mark Robson’s direction. Usually most directors come up with a color scheme based on the type of script that they have and mood they want to create, but Robson’s uses every color of the rainbow and more. The plush varied sets and interesting stop action photography that gets implemented from time-to-time keeps things moving at a brisk a visually interesting pace. John William’s score is excellent and Dionne Warwick’s song ‘The theme from Valley of the Dolls’, which charted at number 2 is like most of her work infinitely hummable.

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Duke is lively as the caustic Neeley. She took on the role to get rid of her ‘goody-goody’ image and does so in grand style as her angry tirades and meltdowns are entertaining. While she is attractive Tate’s acting seems limited, but her character is by far the most likable. Parkins may be the least well known of the three, but her performance is solid as the film’s anchor.

Veteran actress Susan Hayward gives the best performance as the aging acerbic singer Helen Lawson who will allow no one to push her from the top. Her confrontation with Duke in the women’s bathroom where Duke pulls off Hayward’s wig and tries flushing it down the toilet and then Hayward’s response to it is by far the most memorable scene of the whole movie.

The story itself is predictable, clichéd and one-note. The characters are cardboard and the dialogue is stale. If it weren’t for Robson’s direction this would have been a ‘bomb’. However, it has attained a high cult following for its campiness, which if you view it from that perspective isn’t bad.

This same story was remade as a 1981 TV-movie starring James Coburn and Jean Simmons.  Also, a young Richard Dreyfuss can be spotted briefly as a stagehand.

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My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 15, 1967

Runtime: 2Hours 3Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Mark Robson

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming

8 responses to “Valley of the Dolls (1967)

  1. This is one of the ones on my classics list. It may be just middling but I feel like I should watch it just because it is a classic.

    • It’s a ‘campy classic’ not a classic in the conventional form. Don’t be expecting a really great movie, but if you like things cheesy that is laced with just the right amount of trash then you should enjoy it.

      • I do love cheesy and trash, lol, just look at my blog. 😉 But campy classic or not, I still feel like I should watch it at least once. 🙂

      • Sounds like you are over your burnout and back into watching movies, which is good to hear!

      • I’m kind of over it, thankfully. 🙂 Honestly, I’m kind of burnt out on everything right now but that’s more because I’ve been going through a bout of the big D. But started some new anti-depressant and I’m trying to ignore the urge to do nothing but sleep so hopefully I’ll be back in the swing of things in no time!

      • You probably have the urge to do nothing but sleep because you have been so extremely busy that your body needs to catch up with it. Nice to hear that you are on anti-depressants and they are working. You always sound like such a very positive person that it is hard to imagine that you would be suffering from depression.

      • That might be true. I didn’t think of that. 🙂 I think it may also partially be all the medication that I’m on (several health issues). I try to be as positive as possible but I’ve suffered from depression since I was 11 and was recently diagnosed as bipolar so life is sometimes super interesting for me. 😉

  2. Joseph Kearny

    The Citizen Kane of camp

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