I like movies more than books. This is sort of ironic since I want to be a writer of books. Luckily, I like writing them more than I like reading them. And I especially like book-to-film adaptations. Yes, things are cut out and changed around, but more often than not, I like the changes. Sometimes a few changes give the story a second chance at life.
Valley of the Dolls (1967)
All changes aside, both Jacqueline Susann's 1966 novel and today's film tell the same basic story: Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins) moves from sleepy New England to New York City to have a career and a life. She soon becomes the secretary for a theatrical lawyer and meets agent Lyon Burke (Paul Burke). Anne is friends with Neely O'Hara (Patty Duke), a spunky and talented actress on the rise and Jennifer North (Sharon Tate), a victimized sex symbol who is only considered "a body" despite her intelligence and good nature. At one point, all three women become dependent on barbiturates (nicknamed "dolls") to deal with their lives in the spotlight.
Oh, the fame. How I love movies and songs and music videos about people rising to the top and then crashing and burning in drug addled, sex infused flames (Fuck it, I can't wait for Lucky: The Britney Spears Story*). And this movie is exactly that. In fact, I'm a little disappointed in myself that I hadn't seen it until this very morning. It's campy and melodramatic and I love every salacious, trashy bit in the saga of Anne, Neely, and Jennifer.
But if I had one complaint it would be the musical representation of Neely. Time and time again we are told what a balls out fucking talented singer and actress she is. Now, Patty Duke does a spectacular job in all of Neely's "off stage" scenes, but the singing is...well, it's not like Jennifer Hudson's Effie White in Dreamgirls, another character who is supposed to possess The Voice of the Ages. Now if it were Duke singing, I would just shrug given her acting performance. The kicker is, her voice was dubbed by Gail Heideman, an actress with two other credits to her name. Her voice isn't bad, but she doesn't have the range of Mariah Carey, the power of Pat Benatar or even the uniqueness of Karen Carpenter. Why not get someone better? Then again, the 60's had a preferred singing style that was based in straight forward and simple delivery, so I should just shut the hell up.
I have never read Valley of the Dolls, but I am now inspired to pick it up. According to the book's Wikipedia page, changes are a-plenty in this film treatment. A happier ending is given to one character and much is cut out for time. That's fine. I see the reason for it. Currently, I'm riding the high of falling in love with a new movie. I taped it and fully plan on watching it again tomorrow!