Tag Archives: Patty Duke

Willy Milly (1986)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Girl turns into boy.

Milly (Pamela Adlon) is a teen who dreams of one day becoming a boy. One day she purchases a magical potion from a kid named Malcolm (Seth Green), which promises to make her wish come true as long as she takes it during the next solar eclipse, which she does. Now as a boy she changes her name to Willy, but finds mixed reactions from those around her. Her father (John Glover) likes the change, as he always wanted a son, but her mother (Patty Duke) doesn’t. He/she starts going to a different school, but finds that both genders have their equal share of problems.

Although the storyline may sound novel it really isn’t and this thing suffers from being just another generic ‘80s teen movie. The humor of having Milly suddenly waking up with a penis and the shocked reactions of her family and friends is not played-up enough while the myriad of issues that this sort of change would produce gets woefully underexplored. Instead it devolves into the typical teen dramas that we’ve seen done before and no need in seeing again.

The most annoying aspect deals with the proverbial bully storyline. I realize every school has got one, but it would be refreshing to have a high school movie that didn’t feel the need to always have to take this redundant route. This one, which gets played by an actor named Jeb Ellis-Brown, is particularly dull and what’s worse is that he looks scrawny and could be easily be beat-up by the kids he is supposedly intimidating.

Adlon’s performance, who gets billed under the last name of Segall, is irritating and a major detriment. For one thing she looks a bit androgynous from the start and then when she does turn into a boy all she does his cut hair short and that’s it even though her voice stays high pitched and her mannerisms remain girly making it seem more like just another female with short hair. There are a few good moments with Glover as the father as he tries to ‘train’ her to be more like a ‘man’, but Duke is horribly wasted in a small and forgettable supporting part.

The material is dated and these days this same storyline could be used minus the magical potion and instead tackled as a storyline dealing with a transgender teen. I also had problems with the Eric Gurry character who plays a teen friend to Willy that is stricken to a wheel chair. Initially I thought it was great that they introduced a character who had a handicap, but then it gets treated as being nothing more than a psychosomatic condition, which demeans all those victims of spinal cord injuries who are permanently paralyzed and unable to walk ever even if they wanted to.

There’s a film called Just One of the Guys that came out around the same time as this one and had a similar theme, but in that one the teen character only pretended to be a guy and it was much funnier and more perceptive.

Alternate Title: Something Special

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: November 14, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Paul Schneider

Studio: Concorde Pictures

Available: VHS

Me, Natalie (1969)

me natalie 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Homely girl finds independence.

Natalie (Patty Duke) has been plagued all her life as being unattractive and overlooked time and again by other men. Her parents (Nancy Marchand, Phillip Sterling) promise her that way day she will grow up to be beautiful, but it never happens. When she finds out that they secretly promise one of her potential suitors (Bob Balaban) that they will pay for his education to become an eye doctor if he agrees to marry her she becomes deeply hurt and decides to move out. Things are not easy at first, but she manages to find a job and a decent apartment in Greenwich Village. It is there that she meets David (James Farentino) an older man who she falls deeply in love with only to find out that he is married.

Duke does well in the lead role although this was at the height of her bipolar disorder, which was untreated at the time and it caused many problems on the set between her and director Fred Coe that was later chronicled her autobiographic book ‘Call Me Anna’ and subsequent 1990 TV-Movie of the same name. On the looks department the character really isn’t that bad and her ‘ugliness’ consists mainly of some bad buck teeth that could probably have been immediately resolved with a good orthodontist and some braces.

It’s the character’s personality that is really unattractive. She is extremely whiny as well as being bag of insecurities that falls completely apart the second she is faced with anything unpleasant or unexpected. She is constantly judging other women on their looks even though she expects everyone else to look past her own physical flaws and resents them when they don’t. There is even a scene where she coldly rejects an overweight man who asks her to dance by calling him a ‘loser’. While I applaud the film for showing us a candid portrait of an individual that goes well beyond the manufactured politically correct persona of a protagonist that we are so used to seeing it still may be tough going for most viewers to have much empathy for her.

What I liked about the movie is that it starts out as an old fashioned kitchen sink drama of this lonely girl stuck in a drab existence and simply looking to get married and then blossoms into something completely different as she gets out into the world and experiences the big city and late ’60s attitudes. The film has a few memorable scenes including her job at a topless and bottomless bar in which the waitresses are required to wear all black that covers even their faces and then they are fitted with prosthetic breasts and butts that they wear around the outside of their outfits and glow-in-the-dark. They then walk around the darkened restaurant taking customer orders while looking like a collage of floating female body parts.

The one thing that really hurts the film as a whole is the musical score by Henry Mancini. Normally I’m a big fan of his, but here his melodic stuff sounds out-of-date and not in touch with the late ’60s or the young people living in it. Simply because one may be a great composer doesn’t mean he’s a perfect fit for every project and this was clearly one of them as the music has a 1940’s quality to it that made the picture seem highly dated even at the time.

The movie though does successfully make a great point, which is that one can only find true happiness from inner peace and not by being dependent on the reactions of others. It also marks the film debut of Al Pacino who is seen briefly as a young man who asks Natalie for a dance at a high school social and then immediately asks her if she ‘puts out’.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 13, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 51Minutes

Rated M

Director: Fred Coe

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: None at this time.

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