Valley of the Dolls

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Movie (2)

Valley of the Dolls is the title of a best selling novel by Jacqueline Susann, published in 1966, and the Hollywood film which followed it in 1967.



When first published the book became an instant success and since its original publication has sold more than 20 million copies. It was inevitable that such a success would lead to a Hollywood film. The book was the first of its genre by a female author to achieve such outstanding commercial success, and led the way for other authors such as Jackie Collins to depict as fiction, the private lives of the real-life rich and famous.


The subsequent film, produced by David Weisbart and directed by Mark Robson, received a great deal of publicity during its production. Upon release it was a commercial success, but was universally panned by critics. It was rereleased in 1969 following the murder of star, Sharon Tate, and was once again commercially viable. In the years since its production it has come to be regarded as a camp classic.

Primary cast:

Award nominations:


The book and film tell the story of three young women who meet when all are embarking on the beginning of their careers. Neely O'Hara is a plucky kid with undeniable talent who is working in a Broadway play which stars the legendary actress Helen Lawson. Jennifer North, a beautiful blonde with limited talent is appearing in the chorus. Anne Welles has recently arrived from New England with hopes of success in New York City and she is working for an agency that represents Helen Lawson. The three women become fast friends, and share a bond of ambition and the tendency to be involved with the wrong men.

O'Hara becomes a major success and goes to Hollywood where a lucrative film career follows, but almost immediately falls victim to the "dolls" of the title - drugs. Her career is shattered by her erratic behaviour and she finds herself in a sanitarium. Meanwhile Jennifer has followed her to Hollywood and married a singer, but he is afflicted with a degenerative disease and his care results in mounting medical expenses. Having learnt that she has only ever been regarded for her body, Jennifer finds herself working in "art movies" to pay the medical bills. Anne has fared the best of all three, having become a highly successful model. She too falls under the allure of the "dolls" and uses them to escape the reality of her relationship with her unfaithful lover. Jennifer tries to turn her back on her "art movie" career, but when diagnosed with breast cancer, commits suicide with an overdose of "dolls". Neely is given one more chance to straighten up and resume her career, but the attraction of the "dolls" is too strong and she seems to spiral into a final decline. Only Anne manages to escape and abandons both her unfaithful lover and the "dolls" to return to New England (none of this is in the book, where Anne stays with Lyon and under the influence of the dolls).

Much of the narrative is drawn from the author's experiences and observations as a struggling actress in the Hollywood of the early forties. The character of Neely O'Hara with her excess of talent coupled with her self destructive alcoholism and dependency on prescription drugs, is said to be based upon Judy Garland, who was originally cast in the movie as Helen Lawson (based on Ethel Merman, whom Susann had known personally - and reportedly had been involved with), until Garland's unpredictable behaviour led to her dismissal. O'Hara's treatment in the sanitariums is a milder version of the fate that befell actress Frances Farmer. The tragic character of Jennifer North is said to be based upon the actress Carole Landis, who had been a friend of the author during their Hollywood days. Like Jennifer, Landis was seen as an ambitious blonde with little real talent, and after a series of failed relationships and a career that had quickly stagnated, she committed suicide with an overdose of barbiturates.

See also


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