It’s hard to get beyond ‘Valley of the Dolls’

ValleyYou don’t have to be gay to love Valley of the Dolls, perhaps the most brilliantly bad film ever made. Still, Fox Home Entertainment yesterday released the film and its sequel, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, on DVD, partly in honor of Gay Pride Month. “Obviously, it’s high camp, and the gay boys love it,” says Fox’s Steve Feldstein. "[The film] is a time-tested gay male identification with tragic women. A rooting for the underdog complex. The high drama of it all. The timing of the release was fortuitous.” The 1967 film was adapted from the Jacqueline Susann novel, which follows the rise of some not-so-sweet young things through Hollywood’s career labyrinth of pills and booze. The three leads—Patty Duke, Lee Grant and Barbara Parkins—all highly regarded actresses despite this movie, give the worst, most comically entertaining performances of their careers. Equally as interesting as the extras on these discs (priced at $26.98 each) is the dizzying pop-culture lore behind the first film. Consider that Patty Duke, who plays Neely O’Hara , won an Oscar at age 16 for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. (She also had her own TV show in the 1960s and was once married to John Astin, aka Gomez Addams. They are the parents of Sean Astin.) The Neely O’Hara character was loosely based on Judy Garland, who was originally cast as Helen Lawson in the film, but health problems caused her to be replaced by Susan Hayward. (One of the disc’s extras is Garland’s screen test.) Then there’s the awful fate that befell poor Sharon Tate, married at the time of her murder to Roman Polanski, at the hands of the Manson family. To support the release, Fox is sponsoring Dolls-related events this month in New York, Washington and San Francisco. In Los Angeles last week, stars like Laraine Newman, Melissa Joan Hart and Mackenzie Phillips took part in a staged reading of the script. Proceeds from the event went to an organization that helps at-risk gay and lesbian youth. For maximum enjoyment of this film, we recommend it be viewed in a group. Because watching Valley of the Dolls alone is like drinking alone—it’s anti-social and could lead to self-destructive behavior.

—Posted by Kathleen Sampey