Valley of the Dolls (film)

Valley of the Dolls is a 1967 American drama film directed by Mark Robson, produced by Robson and David Weisbart, and starring Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Sharon Tate and Susan Hayward. It was based on Jacqueline Susann's 1966 novel of the same name.

Valley of the Dolls
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Robson
Produced byDavid Weisbart
Screenplay byHelen Deutsch
Dorothy Kingsley
Harlan Ellison (uncredited)
Based onValley of the Dolls
by Jacqueline Susann
StarringBarbara Parkins
Patty Duke
Sharon Tate
Susan Hayward
Paul Burke
Lee Grant
Music byAndré Previn
Dory Previn (songs)
John Williams
CinematographyWilliam H. Daniels
Edited byDorothy Spencer
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • December 15, 1967 (1967-12-15) (United States)
Running time
123 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4.69 million[1]
Box office$44.4 million (US)[2]
$50 million (Worldwide)[3]
$20 million (US/ Canada rentals)[4]


Three 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, of which legendary actress Helen Lawson (Hayward) is the arrogant star, while Jennifer North (Tate), a beauty with limited talent, is in the chorus.

Anne Welles (Parkins) is a New England ingenue who has arrived in New York City and works as a secretary for a theatrical agency that represents Lawson. She proves her worth to her boss, Henry Bellamy (Robert H. Harris), and Miss Steinberg (Naomi Stevens), and excels in her job.

Neely, Jennifer, and Anne become fast friends, sharing the bonds of ambition and the tendency to fall in love with the wrong men.

Neely is fired from the show as Lawson considers her a threat to her top billing in the play. Assisted by Lyon Burke (Paul Burke), an attorney from Anne's theatrical agency, Neely makes an appearance on a telethon and is hired as a nightclub act. She becomes an overnight success and moves to Hollywood to pursue a lucrative film career.

After achieving stardom, however, Neely not only displays the egotistical behavior of Lawson, she also falls victim to the eponymous "dolls" (prescription drugs, particularly barbiturates Seconal and Nembutal and various stimulants). She betrays her husband, Mel Anderson (Martin Milner), by having an affair with fashion designer Ted Casablanca (Alexander Davion) and ends up marrying him. Ted leaves her for another woman when she puts her career before her marriage and, eventually, her career is shattered by her erratic behavior due to drug abuse. She is committed to a sanitarium for drug rehabilitation.

Jennifer follows 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 choreaa fact his domineering half-sister and manager Miriam (Lee Grant) had been concealingJennifer has an abortion. As Tony's mental and physical health declines, Jennifer and Miriam check him into the same sanitarium as Neely. Faced with Tony's mounting medical expenses, Jennifer finds herself working in French "art films" (soft-core pornography) to pay the bills.

Anne's natural beauty gets the attention of cad Lyon. They fall in love with each other, and she ends up in a doomed relationship with him. Her beauty and intelligence also help her land a profitable job promoting a line of cosmetics in TV commercials and print ads, with Henry managing her. The company is owned by one Kevin Gillmore (Charles Drake), who also falls in love with her. They start a relationship, however, they amicably break it off.

Neely, committed to the same institution as Tony to recover from her addictions, meets him there, and they sing a duet at one of the sanitarium's weekly parties. Neely is released and given a chance to rebuild her career when Lyon agrees to represent her. She successfully steals Lyon from Anne, but the prospect of a comeback seems too daunting and Neely succumbs to her addictions.

Brazenly ignoring Lyon's orders, she goes to a press party for her long-time arch-rival, Helen Lawson. They proceed to get into a catfight in the ladies' room, where Neely throws Helen's wig into the commode and flushes it. Later on, Neely becomes even more arrogant, throwing weight around that she doesn't have, and then viciously insulting Lyon which leads him to both resign from representing her and ends his relationship with her. She gets strung out on dolls and alcohol and is removed from the show for her understudy. She goes to a bar across the street and gets even more high.

Finally, she hits complete rock bottom -- awakening from her stupor in a stranger's room, in bed, half nude watching him rob her. She stumbles into the empty alley outside of her theater, screaming and crying where nobody hears her or helps her.

Meanwhile, Jennifer is diagnosed with breast cancer and needs a mastectomy. She phones her mother, seeking moral support, but her mother is only concerned with the reaction from her friends to Jennifer's "art films." Believing her body to be her only form of currency, insisting to Anne that "all I know how to do is take off my clothes," Jennifer commits suicide by drug overdose. (One of the reporters covering the suicide was played by the novel's author, Jacqueline Susann).

Anne, devastated by Lyon's betrayal, becomes addicted to pills ("dolls"). After almost drowning in the ocean when high, she quickly quits drugs and takes a train returning to New England, where her aunt Amy (Judith Lowry in an uncredited role) lives, and she finds she is truly happier. She moves back in with her aunt and with the money she accrued over the years, helps her with the house and finances.

During a frank discussion with Lyon about Neely, Helen Lawson reflects, "...find yourself a good girl, marry her and have kids... or you'll end up like me, alone and wondering what the hell happened.". Lyon travels to New England to ask Anne to marry him. She declines his offer and decides to move on (happily) with her life. As she leaves, Lyon realizes what he lost.



The ending to the film was changed dramatically from the novel. In the film, Anne and Lyon never marry and do not have a child together. Rather, she leaves Lyon and returns to Lawrenceville, which is described as the one place she found real happiness. Lyon later visits her to propose but she refuses. These last-minute changes in the script, so out of keeping with Anne's established character (well known to millions of readers), prompted original screenwriter Harlan Ellison, who wanted to keep the original downbeat ending, to remove his name and credit from the film.

Another important difference is that the film is clearly set in the mid-to-late 1960s and the events unfold over the course of a few years, whereas in the book the story begins in 1945 and develops throughout two decades.

Judy Garland was originally cast as Helen Lawson, but was fired when she reportedly came to work drunk;[5] Susan Hayward replaced her in the role after production had already begun. On July 20, 2009, Patty Duke told an audience at a screening of the film at the Castro Theater in San Francisco that director Mark Robson made Garland wait from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm before filming her scenes for the day, knowing that Garland would be upset and drunk by that time. Hayward reportedly had a difficult relationship with the cast and crew, and her clashes with Duke became part of the dramatic tension between their characters.

20th Century Fox wanted contract star Raquel Welch to play Jennifer but she turned it down, not wanting to play a "sexpot" role. She asked to play Neely but the studio refused.[6]

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a 1970 satirical pastiche, was filmed by 20th Century Fox while the studio was being sued by Jacqueline Susann, according to Irving Mansfield's book Life With Jackie. 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 of $2 million against Fox.

Home media

The Criterion Collection released Valley of the Dolls along with its parody Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in September 2016 on DVD and Blu-ray. While the latter film had previously been released by Arrow Films in the United Kingdom in the same year, this was the first Blu-ray release for Valley of the Dolls.[7]


Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes has a 33% rating based on 36 reviews.[8] The films grossed $50 million worldwide against a $5 million budget.[9]

According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $9,700,000 in rentals to break even and made $22,925,000, meaning it made a profit.[10]

Award nominations


Valley of the Dolls (Soundtrack)
Studio album by
Released1967 (1967)
Label20th Century Fox Records

The soundtrack was released in 1967. Dionne Warwick sang the title track, however, her version is not on the soundtrack album, only on the actual film soundtrack. According to Susann, she wrote her own lyric for the film's title track as she felt that Dory Previn's lyric did not establish the story's background. Warwick was signed to Scepter Records at the time and could not contractually appear on the soundtrack album. Therefore, a re-recorded version appears on the LP Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls. The film contains two versions of the theme song with different lyrics: one version plays over the opening credits, and the other, with the same lyrics as Warwick's recorded version, is heard towards the end of the film.

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 Gaille Heidemann for Patty Duke. Heidemann and Wilson are uncredited on the soundtrack label.

Track listing
  1. "Theme from Valley of the Dolls" - 4:04 (vocal by Dory Previn; narration by Barbara Parkins)
  2. "It's Impossible" - 2:12 (vocal by Gaille Heidemann for Patty Duke)
  3. "Ann at Lawrenceville" - 2:37 (instrumental)
  4. "Chance Meeting" - 2:31 (instrumental)
  5. "Neely's Career Montage" - 1:59 (instrumental)
  6. "Come Live with Me" - 2:01 (vocal by Tony Scotti)
  7. "I'll Plant My Own Tree" - 2:24 (vocal by 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)
  8. "The Gillian Girl Commercial" - 2:04 (instrumental)
  9. "Jennifer's French Movie" - 2:26 (instrumental)
  10. "Give a Little More" - 2:02 (vocal by Gaille Heidemann for Patty Duke)
  11. "Jennifer's Recollection" - 2:52 (instrumental; contains a reprise of "Come Live with Me", vocal by Tony Scotti)
  12. "Theme from Valley of the Dolls Reprise" - 3:00 (vocal by Dory Previn)

The original version of "I'll Plant My Own Tree" (recorded by Judy Garland before she was fired from the film) was finally released in 1976 on a compilation LP, Cut! Outtakes from Hollywood's Greatest Musicals.

Lovely Me: The Life of Jacqueline Susann (1987) by Barbara Seaman states that Ruth Batchelor, who wrote lyrics for Elvis Presley, wrote the lyrics for a title song for the movie. Batchelor's song was rejected by the studio as the Previns had already written the soundtrack. It was recorded by The Arbors and used as the opening theme to the 1967 documentary "Jacqueline Susann and the Valley of the Dolls".


Two updated versions of the Jacqueline Susann's novel was later broadcast as TV series :

See also


  1. Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p255
  2. "Valley of the Dolls, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  3. "Valley of the Dolls, Box Office Information". IMDb. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  4. "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  5. "BBC News Report". 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2007-04-07.
  6. WONDER WOMAN!! Hallowell, John. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 14 July 1968: o26.
  7. Criterion Announces September Titles 16 June 2016
  8. "Valley of the Dolls". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  9. Robson, Mark (February 9, 1968), Valley of the Dolls, Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Paul Burke, retrieved January 3, 2018
  10. Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 326.
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