Valley of the Dolls (1967)

valley of the dolls poster 1967 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Patty Duke

Too long

Movie Info

Movie Name: Valley of the Dolls

Studio: Red Lion

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s): December 17, 1967

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

valley of the dolls anne welles commercial barbara parkins

Um….I guess I’ll buy whatever she’s advertising?

The pressures of success are great and Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke), Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins), and Jennifer North (Sharon Tate) are about to find out.  Turned away by stage actress Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward), Neely finds success in Hollywood but also faces addition and madness.  Anne finds success as a model but finds her troubled relationship with Lyon Burke (Paul Burke) who doesn’t want marriage.  Jennifer finds true romance with singer Tony Polar (Tony Scotti) but discovers sometimes fate steps in.  All three women are about to enter the “Valley of the Dolls”…and no one gets out unscathed.

Directed by Mark Robson, Valley of the Dolls is a drama adapting the best-selling 1966 novel by Jacqueline Susann.  The film had a problematic shooting and became a cult classic.  The movie received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Music (John Williams’ first nomination), and the Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #835).

Valley of the Dolls was always one of those movies that ranges from intense drama to camp with little in between.  Some parts of the movie really work and other parts fall flat.  I hadn’t watched the movie in years, but my first assessment basically holds true.

valley of the dolls jennifer suicide sharon tate

Poor Sharon Tate

The film primarily centers around the three women, but the focus is on the least interesting of the three.  Neely’s story is essentially an All About Eve set-up (based on a few actresses including Judy Garland), but her arc is interesting.  Jennifer’s story is the completely underplayed story and features the only true love story in the movie.  Anne’s story is rather flat and dull…her character’s arc isn’t very dramatic and it feels like the movie’s long runtime could have been better used on the other two characters.

Patty Duke is a powerhouse in the movie.  She was playing against character at the time, but in real life she did end up battling substance abuse and mental issues.  She famously didn’t get along with the director and Susan Hayward (who replaced Judy Garland due to Garland’s own substance abuse issues).  Sharon Tate’s character is the “beauty” and doesn’t get enough screentime to develop (I especially would have been interested in her European struggles to earn money for her husband’s treatment).  Barbara Parkins is rather bland in her role which as mentioned feels like the least interesting character as well.  The movie also features the first film appearance of Richard Dreyfuss as an uncredited stagehand at the Neely performance.

valley of the dolls patty duke ending

“Stella!!!”

The movie has a weird visual appearance.  There are a few “dream-like” sequences (a legitimate commercial with Anne’s character and a “training” sequence with Neely) mixed in with the real story, and since there aren’t more than a couple, they almost seem odd.  The movie looks rather good however.

Valley of the Dolls could be a really fun campy movie, but its long runtime kind of cancels out that idea.  It is over-the-top and overly dramatic, but it is interesting to see the cyclical nature of drug abuse with the current opioid epidemic happening around the world.  The film wasn’t love by a lot of those involved (including Jacqueline Susann) and versions were made in 1981 and 1994.  Valley of the Dolls was followed by a farcical sequel Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in 1970.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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