Under the influence: A review of Valley of the Dolls

Barbara Parkins as Anne Welles for a Gillian Girl commercial

I had a pretty regular routine of reading in the morning, catching up on the wild lives of these three women. Would Anne get her heart broken again? Would Neely go back to rehab, aka the “funny farm?” What would have happened to Jennifer if she *spoiler alert* didn’t kill herself with dolls? These are some of thoughts that would swirl in my head before I cracked open the book. Its extensive and far more detailed than the film, but the film had an equally comical rhythm as the girls walked in and out of each other’s lives. Anne Welles would eventually lose her small town ingenue as she developed into an NYC businesswoman and model as the new Gillian Girl, though continue to be a hopeless romantic.

I have a love/hate relationship with Neely O’Hara, as did everyone. She starts out as a naturally talented girl with liberal vaudeville roots, destined to be a leading lady. Though the candor of an impressionable woman combined with an addictive personality and Diva-level stardom is a recipe for disaster. The famous red pills are used for sleeping aid and the green pills are uppers to wake up. Make THAT a routine and the famous “dolls” become an integral part of their diet. What the film does so well is it shows an excess of fame and an introduction to ribald love triangles between the girls and their men. The most prominent theme Valley of the Dolls are the taboos of pill popping in 1960s as a result of the forever aging celebrity and the race to escape time.

“The soft numbness began to slither through her body. Oh, God! How had she every lived without these gorgeous red dolls.”

Valley of the Dolls

Though most famously remembered in pop culture is Sharon Tate as Jennifer North. Garnering more praise for her exquisite look, she became the 1960s It Girl of Hollywood with her marriage to Roman Polanski. As Jennifer North, she cemented her stardom… up until the Manson Family murdered her. With Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood unveiling, Tate continues to be praised as gorgeous innocence. Tarantino’s notoriously violent filmography had a surprisingly happy ending when he rewrote the fate of a Margot Robbie’s character. The way Valley highlights the addiction of Hollywood excess is when North ingests an entire bottle of pills to escape a mastectomy operation, thinking her body is her only form of currency and notoriety.

“All I know how to do is take off my clothes.”

Jennifer North on her famous French art films, as Neely describes: “nudies”

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