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DOLLS! DOLLS! DOLLS! by Stephen Rebello


Deep Inside Valley of the Dolls, the Most Beloved Bad Book and Movie of All Time

by Stephen Rebello

Pub Date: June 2nd, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-14-313350-6
Publisher: Penguin

A Hollywood screenwriter’s ultimate in-depth guidebook to an enduring book and female-driven film sensation.

Rebello delivers a meticulously detailed paean to both incarnations of Valley of the Dolls, which, despite scathing reviews, were runaway commercial successes. As he writes, the book was a “magnificent obsession” since he first read it as a “precocious kid and an insatiable reader.” He explores author Jacqueline Susann’s early “full-on assault at stardom” in New York in the 1930s as she pursued an acting career, and he traces the dedicated, rigid schedule she adhered to while writing Dolls. When the novel finally published in 1966, it garnered mixed reviews, but it caused a promotional commotion and became a publishing juggernaut. Susann’s later opulent life as a “master of self-promotion and pioneer of branding” was embodied in her active participation in the outlandish film treatment a year later. The complete backstory of the film decorates the second half of the text, as Rebello enthusiastically stuffs each chapter with widely unknown scandalous tattle. The author’s dutiful scrutiny shines in the series of lists pointing out all the differences between the various screenwriters’ treatments and the final production. This scrupulous quality makes the book a blissful treasure trove of gossipy insider details that Dolls fans will swiftly devour. In grand fashion, the author delivers frothy particulars on the agonizing casting process to “find the right Neely” (under consideration, among many others, were “Petula Clark, Helen Mirren, Liza Minnelli, and Andy Warhol ‘superstar’ Baby Jane Holzer”), the film designer’s perfectionist “wardrobe plot,” and, of course, the competitive infighting among the four leading ladies: Patty Duke, Barbara Parkins, Sharon Tate, and Susan Hayward (who replaced the unceremoniously fired Judy Garland). Written with a cinematic excitement and giddiness bordering on satire, this is an indulgent treat for Dolls fans.

Memorable reading for die-hard devotees and those seeking to relive all the breathless histrionics.