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Valley of the Dolls - Just a movie? Just a book? or Something more?
Ok, I confess, I am a movie junkie. I watch a variety of genres as part of escapism. I love dramas, horror, musicals, cult classics, period pieces but absolutely hate romantic comedies. And when I really love a movie I'll watch it more than once, read the book it's based on (if there is one) and research the actors. Last week I found myself watching Valley of the Dolls, the 1967 classic, for the tenth time as background to housework and I was compelled to do a little research on the characters. I came up with some interesting facts about the movie, that I didn't know before...
I'll give you a brief synopsis of the movie without giving too much of the plot away. It's a slightly over the top high society drama about three women. (and when I say "high" I mean high!) They are all friends living in New York City in the 1960s and are basically archetypes with perfectly coiffed hair in flips and bouffants. (btw-The hair is fake and teased to create amazing styles.) You have one girl that's the "talent" of the group and she's a singer and actress, one that's the "body" and one that in the beginning you're really not sure of, but she ends up being the "brains" of the group. In order to cope with their fast paced lives all three women at some point begin taking "dolls" aka downers or barbiturates to help them sleep. Some of the gals rely on them more than others and one starts to take uppers to balance out the downers. As you can imagine it's a slippery slope from one drug to another.
The Valley of the Dolls movie is based on a best selling book of the same name by Jacqueline Suzann. I actually read the book before seeing the movie many years ago and if you are interested, I would read the book first because it will fill in parts of the movie that aren't explained, plus it's a short and easy read.
The book is set in 1945 through the 1950s, has a different ending than the movie and it's based on real people that Jacqueline Suzann met in Hollywood as a struggling actress. The "talent" character is based on Judy Garland and Betty Hutton both were plucky singers that made a lot of movies and a lot of headlines with their drug addictions. The "body" character was based on Carole Landis and Marilyn Monroe both did cheesecake photography and were more known for their bodies, than their acting. Finally the "brains" in all of this I think can be seen in every woman who sets out with their knowledge to do the best and make the most of their lives. Other characters in the book are based on Ethel Merman, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Who knew this campy movie could be based on so many pop culture icons from the heyday of movies and musicals? Simply fascinating!
The movie and book are just trashy and I can't help loving them.
Your movie junkie (better to be a movie junkie, than a junkie junkie),
~ Julie Ann
p.s. If you come across Beyond the Valley of the Dolls---TOTALLY different. It came out later and has nothing to do with the original. This movie reflects more of the hippie subculture and has more graphic and shocking visuals and very little plot. It has a large cult following.