The film stars Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Sharon Tate, Paul Burke, Martin Milner and Susan Hayward.
Upon release it was a commercial success, though universally panned by critics. It was re-released in 1969 following the murder of Sharon Tate, and again proved commercially viable. Co-star Parkins, attending a July 1997 screening of the film at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, told the sold-out crowd, "I know why you like it...because it's so bad!"
The movie was remade in 1981 for television as Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls.
PlotThree young women meet when they embark on their careers. Neely O'Hara (Duke) is a plucky kid with undeniable talent who sings in a Broadway show, the legendary actress Helen Lawson (Hayward) is the star of the play, and Jennifer North (Tate), a beautiful blonde with limited talent, is in the chorus. Anne Welles (Parkins) is a New England ingenue who recently arrived in New York City and works for a theatrical agency that represents Helen Lawson. The three women become fast friends, sharing the bonds of ambition and the tendency to fall in love with the wrong men.
O'Hara is fired because the arrogant Lawson considers her a threat. She nevertheless becomes an overnight success and moves to Hollywood to pursue a lucrative film career. Once she's a star, though, Neely not only duplicates the egotistical behavior of Lawson, she also falls victim to the eponymous "dolls": prescription drugs, particularly the barbiturates Seconal and Nembutal and various stimulants. She betrays her husband (Milner), her career is shattered by erratic behavior and she is committed to a sanitarium.
Jennifer has followed Neely's path to Hollywood, where she marries nightclub singer Tony Polar (Tony Scotti) and becomes pregnant. When she learns that he has the hereditary condition Huntington's chorea, a fact his domineering half-sister and manager Miriam (Lee Grant) had been concealing, Jennifer has an abortion. Faced with Tony's mounting medical expenses, Jennifer finds herself working in French "art films" (extremely tame soft-core pornography) to pay the bills.
Anne, having become a highly successful model, also falls under the allure of "dolls" to escape her doomed relationship with cad Lyon Burke (Burke), who has an affair with Neely.
Jennifer is diagnosed with breast cancer and needs a mastectomy. Jennifer phones her mother, seeking moral support. The mother is only concerned with the reaction from her friends at Jennifer's "art films." The mother also reminds Jennifer of her own financial needs. Faced with this, Jennifer succumbs to depression and commits suicide with an overdose of "dolls."
Neely is released from the sanitarium and given a chance to resurrect her career, but the attraction of "dolls" and alcohol proves too strong and she spirals into a hellish decline.
Anne abandons drugs and her unfaithful lover and returns to New England. Lyon Burke ends his affair with Neely and asks Anne to marry him, but she is moving on with her life.
- Barbara Parkins as Anne Welles
- Patty Duke as Neely O'Hara
- Sharon Tate as Jennifer North
- Paul Burke as Lyon Burke
- Tony Scotti as Tony Polar
- Susan Hayward as Helen Lawson
- Martin Milner as Mel Anderson
- Charles Drake as Kevin Gillmore
- Alexander Davion as Ted Casablanca
- Lee Grant as Miriam Polar
- Naomi Stevens as Miss Steinberg
- Robert H. Harris as Henry Bellamy
- Jacqueline Susann as Reporter #1 at Jennifer's suicide
- Robert Viharo as Art Film Director
- Joey Bishop as Telethon Emcee
- George Jessel - Grammy Awards Emcee
- Richard Dreyfuss - assistant stage manager (uncredited)
- Jennifer Gan - as Show Girl Actress (uncredited)
- Judy Garland was originally cast as Helen Lawson, but was fired when she came to work drunk; Susan Hayward replaced her in the role after production had already begun. On July 20, 2009, Patty Duke appeared at the Castro Theater in San Francisco with a benefit screening of the film, and said that director Mark Robson made Garland wait from 8am to 4pm before filming her scenes for the day, knowing that Garland would be upset and drunk by that time.
- Barbara Parkins suggested Dionne Warwick perform the film's theme song. A re-recorded version of the song became Warwick's biggest hit to date, peaking at the #2 spot in February, 1968.
- Barbara Harris and Petula Clark were considered for the role of Neely O'Hara; Barbara Parkins tested for the role, although it ultimately went to Patty Duke.
- Thelma Pelish, who appeared as Mae in the movie The Pajama Game, has a bit part in the film as a desk manager at a rehearsal hall.
- Soap opera actress Darlene Conley, who played Sally Spectra on "The Bold And The Beautiful", has an uncredited part as a nurse in a sanitarium.
- Judith Lowry, who later appeared in the series Phyllis as Phyllis Lindstrom's nemesis, Sally Dexter, played Anne's Aunt Amy, although she was not credited.
- Locations depicting the ficticious New England town of Lawrenceville were filmed in Redding, Connecticut & Katonah, New York. Other locations included New Haven, Connecticut and Malibu, California.
- The 1959 Ford Country Squire driven by Barbara Parkins' character in Lawrenceville clearly shows actual 1960's Connecticut license plates.
- The book's author, Jacqueline Susann, appeared in the film as a reporter at the scene of Jennifer's suicide.
- The film's "happy ending" was cobbled together by studio demands for an uplifting dénouement; it strays from the original plot of the book, in which Anne stays with Lyon after his affair with Neely and becomes increasingly dependent on drugs. Writer Harlan Ellison, who wrote the original screenplay, took his name off the project because of the ending and the watering-down of his realistic adaptation of the story.
- Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a 1970 satirical pastiche, was filmed by Twentieth Century-Fox while the studio was being sued by Jacqueline Susann, according to Irving Mansfield's book Jackie and Me. Susann created the title for a Jean Holloway-scripted sequel that was rejected by the studio, which allowed Russ Meyer to film a radically different movie with the same title. The suit went to court after Susann's death in 1974; the estate won damages for $2 million against Fox.
- This was Richard Dreyfuss' first film appearance (uncredited).
- Also uncredited, actress Peggy Rea, who later appeared in The Waltons, Step by Step and Grace Under Fire appears briefly as Neely O'Hara's vocal coach.
- Lee Grant said in an interview that this was the "Best and funniest worst movie ever made!".
- Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment (John Williams)
- Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer – Female (Sharon Tate)
- Grammy Award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture (André Previn)
Differences between the book and film
- In the film, Anne finds it difficult to leave the beautiful house in Lawrenceville. In the book she despises the cold, austere house and loses Lyon the first time because she refuses to live there with him.
- In the film, Neely O'Hara is cast out of Lawson's new Broadway play. In the book, O'Hara replaces Terry King because Helen prefers that an unknown play the second-lead ingenue role, rather than King, who was getting too much attention in the press.
- The film completely excludes the lengthy subplot in which Anne is unwillingly engaged to wealthy but unattractive Alan Cooper while struggling to hide her feelings for Lyon Burke.
- In the book, the story takes place over multiple decades, dealing with the aging of women in Hollywood. The film takes place in a much shorter time span.
- In the book Anne ends up marrying Lyon Burke, who eventually has a serious affair with Neely. Anne does not have the peaceful catharsis in the book that she does in the film; instead she slips into the same drug-induced comatose life that plagued the rest of her friends, while settling for her loveless marriage and her husband's infidelity.
- Like many other characters, George Bellows and Terry King are eliminated completely, though Bellows is mentioned in the beginning of the film by Miss Steinberg.
- In the book the girls share a house and a close friendship. This was ignored in the film.
- In the book, Helen and Anne become friends because she sees her as someone important since she's engaged to millionaire Alan Cooper.
- In the book, Anne and Neely are close. Anne had met Neely when she rented a room at the house where Neely is also renting. In the film, Anne rents a hotel room when she first arrives in New York.
- In the book, Neely begs Anne to ask her boss to pull strings to get her a part in the play 'Hit the Sky'; the understudy role she gets begins her career. In the film, Neely leaves the play.
- In the book, Anne does not feel passionate about any men—not her Lawrenceville beau, not Alan Cooper, not Mr. Gilmore—only Lyon. The film only depicts that she falls for Lyon.
- In the book Jennifer North was in the midst of a divorce with a European prince when she first appears. This is not mentioned in the film.
- In the book Jen is engaged to a politician with whom she is in love by the time she is diagnosed with breast cancer. This is completely excluded in the movie, which claims that North is in love with Tony Polar until the end of her life.
|Valley of the Dolls (Soundtrack)|
|Studio album by Various|
|Label||20th Century Fox Records|
Margaret Whiting recorded "I'll Plant My Own Tree" for the film, while Eileen Wilson recorded it for the soundtrack album: the song is dubbed for Susan Hayward, while "It's Impossible" and "Give a Little More" are both dubbed by Gail Heideman for Patty Duke. Heideman and Wilson are uncredited on the soundtrack label.
- Track listing
- Theme From "Valley Of The Dolls (04:04) Vocal: Dory Previn - Narration By Barbara Parkins
- It's Impossible (02:12) Vocal: Gail Heideman (for Patty Duke)
- Ann At Lawrenceville (02:37) Instrumental
- Chance Meeting (02:31) Instrumental
- Neely's Career Montage (01:59) Instrumental
- Come Live With Me (02:01) Vocal: Tony Scotti
- I'll Plant My Own Tree (02:24) Vocal: Eileen Wilson (for Susan Hayward) Margaret Whiting dubbed Susan Hayward in the film but she was under contract to a different label, so veteran voice double Eileen Wilson sings "I'll Plant My Own Tree" on the soundtrack album.
- The Gillian Girl Commercial (02:04) Instrumental
- Jennifer's French Movie (02:26) Instrumental
- Give A Little More (02:02) Vocal: Gail Heideman (for Patty Duke)
- Jennifer's Recollection (02:52) Instrumental (contain a reprise of Come Live With Me vocal: by Tony Scotti)
- Theme From "Valley Of The Dolls Reprise (03:00) Vocal: Dory Previn