It is hard to believe that this year marks the 45th anniversary of the cult classic book-turned-film Valley of the Dolls. Baby boomers may recall reading under the covers away from parental eyes as it was quite controversial at the time -- today you would hardly bat an eye. The film has a cult following today with so many classic laugh-out-loud (some intentional, some not) scenes and lines -- Neely O'Hara flushing Helen Lawson's wig down the toilet, Lawson singing "My Tree" and "The only hit that comes out of a Helen Lawson show is Helen Lawson, and that's ME, baby, remember?"
Valley of The Dolls was written by the late Jacqueline Susann, queen of the steamy blockbuster long before Jackie Collins (30 million copies sold to date). The roman a' clef tells the story of three young career women -- singer Neely O'Hara (Patty Duke), actress Jennifer North (Sharon Tate) and talent agency assistant turned model Ann Welles (Barbara Parkins). The three use "dolls" a.k.a. barbiturates/downers to cope with their various soap opera maladies (breast cancer, gay husbands, etc.) and you get the picture. Veteran actress Susan Hayward plays aging singer Helen Lawson and it's rumored that the role was patterned after Judy Garland and Ethel Merman. (Ironically Garland was originally cast but let go). Candice Bergen, Petula Clark, Raquel Welch and Ann-Margaret were up for the roles of the three girls.
|Author Jacqueline Susann|
|Susann with cast members (Lee Grant in sunglasses)|
|"Here kitty kitty"|
|Susan Hayward singing "My Tree"|
|Patty Duke romps on classic Sixties style brass bed|
The movie is pure camp with some wonderful style moments (Pucci patterned jumpsuits and big hair just to name a few) and a great window into sixties Manhattan and Los Angeles. The title song by Dionne Warwick became a huge hit as well. The film was also ranked as one of the 100 Most Amusingly Bad Films Ever Made by the infamous Razzie awards so you know it has to be fun viewing (many rank it alongside 1995's Showgirls). Perhaps actress Lee Grant (who plays Tate's sister in law) said it best that the drama was "The best and funniest worst movie ever made!"
If you are in the Savannah area, SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) is hosting a panel on "Jacqueline Susann and the Style of the 1960s: The 45th Anniversary of The Valley of The Dolls" on April 29th at 4:00 p.m. with fashion designer Lisa Perry, Decades vintage boutique owner Cameron Silver, literary agent Ira Silverburg and Lisa Bishop and Whitney Robinson, directors of the Susann archives. The topic will be the book and its impact on fashion. There is also an exhibit of her personal archives and period garments at Savannah's Pinnacle Gallery.
|Nobody does sixties style better than Lisa Perry|
Photos: Life Magazine, Twentieth Century Fox, Lisa Perry