Valley of the Dolls


Valley of the Dolls

Critics Consensus

Trashy, campy, soapy, and melodramatic, Valley of the Dolls may be a dud as a Hollywood expose, but has nonetheless endured as a kitsch classic.



Total Count: 37


Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,586
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Movie Info

A cinematic take on a 1960s best-seller, Valley of the Dolls traces the ups and downs of three young women as fame, booze, pills, and men consume their lives. Well-bred, small-town Anne Welles (Peyton Place star Barbara Parkins) arrives in New York eager for fame but settles for a job assisting theatrical attorney Henry Bellamy (Robert H. Harris). The job leads her to cross paths with Helen Lawson (Hollywood veteran Susan Hayward), the grand dame of Broadway musicals, and Neely O'Hara (sitcom star Patty Duke), an up-and-coming performer whom Lawson unceremoniously boots from her latest show. Neely lands on her feet thanks to a series of nightclub gigs, and soon she and Anne befriend Jennifer North (Sharon Tate), a buxom starlet. As Neely becomes a huge star of stage and screen and Jennifer appears topless in a string of European "art" films, Anne becomes a wealthy cosmetics spokeswoman and suffers though a passionate but failed affair with aspiring writer Lyon Burke (Paul Burke). As the pressures of fame and failed romance take their toll on all three women, they take refuge in food, sex, liquor, and pills -- especially Neely, who becomes downright monstrous (the titular "dolls" are the uppers and downers to which she becomes hopelessly addicted). Although the film's characters are fictitious composites, Neely most closely resembles Judy Garland; Garland herself was originally cast as Lawson, but she was replaced after only a few days by Hayward. Although the film's trailer played up the story's titillating subject matter, the script for Valley of the Dolls actually toned down Jacqueline Susann's novel. And despite the fact that Dionne Warwick can be heard singing "(Theme From) The Valley of the Dolls" twice during the film, contractual snags kept her from releasing the soundtrack version; a different arrangement later became a number two pop hit in 1968. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi


Barbara Parkins
as Anne Welles
Patty Duke
as Neely O'Hara
Sharon Tate
as Jennifer North
Paul Burke
as Lyon Burke
Tony Scotti
as Tony Polar
Susan Hayward
as Helen Lawson
Alexander Davion
as Ted Casablanca
Lee Grant
as Miriam
Martin Milner
as Mel Anderson
Charles Drake
as Kevin Gilmore
Naomi Stevens
as Miss Steinberg
Robert H. Harris
as Henry Bellamy
Robert Viharo
as Director
Mikel Angel
as Man in Hotel Room
Barry Cahill
as Man in Bar
Richard Angarola
as Claude Chardot
Joey Bishop
as MC at Telethon
George Jessel
as MC at Grammy Awards
Judith Lowry
as Aunt Amy
Jeanne Gerson
as Neely's Maid
Linda Peck
as Telephone Girl
Pat Becker
as Telephone Girl
Corinna Tsopei
as Telephone Girl
Robert Street
as Choreographer
Robert Gibbons
as Desk Clerk at Lawrenceville Hotel
Leona Powers
as Woman at Martha Washington Hotel
Barry O'Hara
as Assistant Stage Manager
Peggy Rea
as Neely's Voice Coach
Norman Burton
as Neely's Hollywood Director
Margot Stevenson
as Anne's Mother
Jonathan Hawke
as Sanitarium Doctor
Richard Hoyt
as Reporter
Dorothy Neumann
as Neely's Maid
Charlotte Knight
as Neely's Maid
Robert L. McCord III
as Bartender at New York Theater
Gertrude Flynn
as Ladies' Room Attendant
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Critic Reviews for Valley of the Dolls

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (13) | Rotten (24)

Audience Reviews for Valley of the Dolls

  • May 29, 2015
    A terrible film that feels tremendously dated today, as I imagine it did just as well back in the 1960s (although obviously not from a thematic point of view), like a mawkish vintage soap opera that is not ashamed of its laughable dialogue and absurd situations.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 01, 2011
    A fairly good take at the life of the 60s but I didn't care for it very much.
    Cassie H Super Reviewer
  • Oct 07, 2010
    This is campy in a gentler way that most fans of camp are probably accustomed to, but the ridiculousness crackling beneath the surface is impossible to deny. The cast's incredible conviction in their material, all of them oblivious to how roundly awful it actually is, is what truly sells Valley of the Dolls. Patty Duke in particular is a delight; never in a million years would you believe that this ham beyond hams was an Oscar winner, hollering her name at the top of her lungs in a filthy alley and clamoring feverishly for her "dolls." You have to commend her dedication, because she truly does embody the character. Unfortunately, that character is less an actress on the fringes of self-destruction as she thinks it is, and mostly just a ridiculous woman with a pill problem. Sharon Tate offers us a woman who the film is trying to tell us, against all visual and inscribed evidence, is not mentally retarded; the challenge we have believing it is its other exciting bit of characterization. The plot is ordinary and sort of tired, honestly, but the excitement comes out in how the little details interface with the big picture. I kind of love its woozy tightroping between luridity and prudishness. The film's total chagrin at nudity, breasts and sex in general (the total disdain for the French "nudie flick") seems kind of hilarious when it's exploiting feminine suffering in just about every other way possible. It's like, don't pretend you're too good to whip out some hoots every now and then. The movie's not misogynist, necessarily, inasmuch as any film with a female character encountering difficulty is, but its portraits aren't particularly flattering either. The only stable female character is a numbingly boring one, as if to suggest that a career-minded, anhedonistic woman is the only kind that can be successful. Gender politics aside, I don't really know if Valley of the Dolls was a very incisive look at Hollywood back in 1967, but I think its relative toothlessness in this day and age is pretty apparent. There's no doubt in my mind that shit like this still occurs, but the problems here feel endemic and our heroines are so chronically up against the wall that these people aren't really relatable. Poor Jennifer North runs across one of the most brutal streaks of bad luck ever committed to celluloid, but when you step back and look at it, it just reads as exploitative. And that's what I love about Valley of the Dolls: despite its delusions of grandeur, it isn't afraid to treat its characters like complete shit for no real reason. All this said, I still prefer Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. All the verve, twice the bizarreness.
    Drew S Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    Maybe it's a bit slow and we've seen this theme often, but this movie has something, it's very timely for the late sixties, and the cast is great. It's a good drama, even though some people think of it as campy now, I still like it.
    Aj V Super Reviewer

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