Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Valley of the Dolls (1967)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Valley of the Dolls (1967)

This successful Fox film from director Mark Robson was based upon Jacqueline Susann's top-selling novel of 1966. It became Fox Studios' top money-maker hit for 1968, although it was severely criticized by most film critics as vulgar and sensationalistic:

  • most of the sex (filmed in silhouette), scandal, and drug abuse now seems tame by today's standards. The campy classic included scenes of the three major stars' many sexual dalliances (never very explicit) and tragic failings due to pill-popping (pills=dolls), drinking and addiction. During the prologue during the opening title credits, one of the three "dolls" (Anne Welles) spoke the film's first dialogue (in voice-over) as an animation played of three characters transformed into colorful "dolls" or pills:

    You've got to climb Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls. It's a brutal climb to reach that peak. You stand there. Waiting for the rush of exhilaration; but, it doesn't come. You're alone and the feeling of loneliness is overpowering.

Film's Prologue During Opening Title Credits

It was a trashy, kitschy, and 'it's-so-bad-it's-good' soap-opera about three aspiring starlets who found popularity and fame, but all of them soon became 'corrupted' by show business in both New York and Hollywood:

  • Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins)
  • Neely O'Hara (Patty Duke)
  • Jennifer North (Sharon Tate)

Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins)

Neely (Patty Duke)

Chorus Girl Jennifer North (Sharon Tate)
  • in the opening sequences, the three main characters were introduced as their paths began to repeatedly crisscross throughout the film. The naive, Radcliffe-educated Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins) had arrived in NYC from her hometown of Lawrenceville in New England and found employment as a secretary with a theatrical law firm and talent agency - Bellamy and Bellows.
  • in a local Broadway theatre during a rehearsal where she was delivering contracts to aging, vulgar, selfish, egotistical and abrasive actress Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward), Anne was shocked when in Helen's dressing room, she saw the marked difference between Lawson's glamorous public image as a musical comedy star-diva and her mean-spirited and real-self (an "evil queen bitch") in the "cruel business" of entertainment. She listened as the determined Helen felt threatened and vowed to fire an aspiring and talented young actress-singer named Neely O'Hara (Patty Duke), for fear of being upstaged:

    "You bet your ass she can't, because she isn't going to get the chance. The only hit that comes out of a Helen Lawson show is Helen Lawson. And that's me, baby, remember?"

  • Neely decided to leave the show when Helen threatened to cut her only number: ("I won't settle for crumbs. I'll leave this stinking show - with dignity"). Her devoted, press-agent boyfriend Mel Anderson (Martin Milner) comforted Neely with a hug:

    Neely: "I had such big plans. I was gonna be a big star. I was gonna take acting lessons and dancing lessons. Now I don't even have a job. All I have is my dignity...."
    Mel: "Honey, listen. It's a rotten business."
    Neely: "I know. But I love it."

  • a third performer in the show was a pretty but untalented showgirl named Jennifer North (Sharon Tate), who remained a friend to Neely and soon became friends with Anne too. While struggling to find work, Neely was living with Mel in a cheap NYC apartment. Lyon helped Neely to find work with an appearance on a popular telethon to support cystic fibrosis, and as a singer in a nightclub. When Neely's own popularity and singing career began to improve, she and Mel made plans to marry: ("Mel, let's get married...I'm not kidding. I'll be making good money. And with your 150 a week, we can really live").
  • meanwhile, the third "doll" Jennifer had begun secretly dating another nightclub singer Tony Polar (Tony Scotti), although Tony's controlling half-sister Miriam (Lee Grant) disapproved of their relationship ("But Miriam's got this thing about marriage. She thinks it'll destroy what she calls my image").
The Main Men in the 'Dolls' Lives

Lyon Burke (Paul Burke) with Anne

Mel Anderson (Martin Milner) with Neely

Tony Polar (Tony Scotti) with Jennifer
  • the talentless Jennifer regularly performed bust exercises, and was financially supporting her mother who often called on the phone. During one conversation, Jennifer admitted: "Mother, I know I don't have any talent, and I know all I have is a body, and I am doing my bust exercises." After the call, she was ready to give up: "Oh, to hell with them! Let 'em droop!"
  • Anne soon found romance with her agency's younger business partner, handsome attorney Lyon Burke (Paul Burke), although the womanizer was opposed to getting married: ("I'm not looking for a wife. No, some men just don't pull well in double harness"). Neely's growing stardom brought her fame on Broadway, prompting Lyon to send her (and Tony) to Hollywood for singing auditions. Neely received acclaim at the Grammy's and was soon making films for a Hollywood studio.
  • simultaneously, Jennifer suddenly married Tony, causing concern for Miriam as the newlyweds also relocated to the West Coast, where Jennifer's modeling career blossomed and Tony's singing (and cross-over to acting) career had also taken occurred.
  • ultimately, Anne and Lyon broke up over their differences, and Anne was hired away from the law firm to take a cosmetics company modeling job, where she would soon become known as "The Gillian Girl." Over time, her popularity soared and she became a familiar face on TV commercials, billboards, and in other magazine/newspaper ads. She had a brief fling with her promoter - Kevin Gillmore (Charles Drake).
  • in Hollywood, Jennifer spoke to Mel about finding more acting work for her husband Tony. Worried, Mel told Jennifer about major changes in Neely's personality, due to the corruptive effects of show-business. Her life now consisted of a busy work schedule, including wardrobe fittings, makeup tests, publicity stills, plus increasingly-close interactions with effeminate and wealthy Hollywood designer Ted Casablanca (Alexander Davion), and the use of amphetamines and downers: "She starts at 5:30 in the morning, still punchy from last night's sleeping pills. So she takes a red pill to pep herself up and at midnight she's still flying. I try to talk to her, it's like a brick wall....The studio wants her to find out why she's so exhausted. They say they think it must be emotional conflicts. Conflicts, my foot! There aren't enough hours in the day. The head shrinker says she's - insecure. She needs mass love."
  • there were obvious cracks in their relationship due to Neely's suspected affair with her designer Ted Casablanca, and Neely's accusations that Mel was living off her earnings:

    Mel: "I'm not the butler, Neely."
    Neely: "You're not the breadwinner either...."

  • Neely appeared to be cheating on Mel in an affair with her designer Ted Casablanca - and her abuse of drugs, promiscuity, and unpredictable behavior further doomed her relationship with Mel. They ultimately separated and then divorced.

    Mel: "You know, you're spending a lot more time than necessary with that fag."
    Neely: "Ted Casablanca is not a fag! And I'm the dame who can prove it."
    Mel: "Thanks for making up my mind. I should've left a long time ago. But I kept remembering the old Neely. She was quite a girl. Now you're just like all the rest of 'em - success is too big for you."
    Neely: "If you ask me, my success is too big for you."

  • while Neely and Mel were splitting up, and she began dating Ted, Anne - after her successful career had been launched - was able to rekindle her relationship with Lyon (who remained Neely's agent) in Los Angeles.
  • there were further signs that Tony had a severe, genetically-inherited terminal illness known as Huntington's Chorea (a debilitating motor-neuron disease), and his condition would affect any children that he fathered: ("Chances for inheritance are extremely high, far above average"). When Jennifer found out, she was devastated with the news since she was pregnant at the time - and she began to seek an abortion.
  • Jennifer's debilitated husband Tony was dying of an incurable disease and was taken for treatment at Longview Sanitarium. Miriam contacted Frenchman Mr. Claude Chardot (Richard Angarola) - a "quickie European movie producer" to help pay Tony's bills by having Jennifer negotiate to make "raw," artsy soft-core 'nudie' films in Europe. He was interested in hiring an American because, as he put it: "The general French girl is inclined to be flat in the bosom."
  • in the meantime while Jennifer was in Paris, Neely married Ted, but the price of fame and stardom was taking its toll on the "self-destructive" and self-loathing Neely from her increased drug abuse and alcoholism. She was cautioned by Anne one evening to not consume both together:

    Neely: "I take dolls. I gotta get some sleep. I gotta get up at 5:00 in the morning and "sparkle, Neely, sparkle."
    Anne: "Neely, you know it's bad to take liquor with those pills."
    Neely: "They work faster."

  • and then later that evening, wearing only her bra and panties, Neely caught her husband Ted cheating on her by skinny-dipping with a young female in their pool. She screamed out:

    Neely: "Having fun, kiddies? Don't mind me, go right ahead. I'll watch. You'd better run, you little tramp. How dare you contaminate my pool. Here, maybe this will disinfect it. (She poured booze into the water). All right faggot, start explaining."
    Ted: "You need glasses, Neely. She's hardly built like a boy."
    Neely: "I could take that better!"
    Ted: "I'm sure you could. You know, you almost made me feel I was queer."
    Neely: "You're crazy...Yes, you are."
    Ted: "You want me to fight your battles at the studio, take you to openings. As a man, you're always too tired and too full of those damn dolls."
    Neely: "You've got guts! I catch you red-handed with a naked broad in my pool and you sermonize me!"
    Ted: "Not a sermon, Neely, just a few cold facts."
    Neely: "Ted, you know how hard I work. When I come home, I'm exhausted. How can I think of sex?"

  • the next day, Neely's agent Lyon reprimanded Neely still asleep in her bedroom for her tardiness, drug and alcohol abuse, and informed the 26 year-old that she had been fired from the studio: "They're replacing you in the picture....You've been out six days because of sleeping pills. You've been late on the set, and you walked out in the middle of the day. To top it all, you've been boozing and eating all through the picture!" The down and out (and completely strung out) Neely agreed to dry out at an LA sanitarium, but then impulsively flew to San Francisco. There outside of a number of topless bars and adult theaters (where Jennifer's 'cutie nudie' picture "The Flame of Montmartre" was showing at the Lyric) were playing, she exclaimed - in the film's most quoted lines:

    "Boobies, boobies, boobies. Nothin' but boobies. Who needs em? (She felt her chest) I did great without 'em."

  • upon her return to LA, Neely was hospitalized in the same sanitarium where Tony had been hospitalized.
  • finally back on the West Coast from Europe and temporarily housed in the Bel Air Carlton Hotel, Jennifer was doubly devastated, both by Tony's condition and by a biopsy of her breast lump that discovered she had a malignant tumor in her left breast. She was scheduled for a mastectomy the next day. She confided in Anne that all she had was a pretty face and body: "All I've ever had was a body, and now I won't even have that....Anne, honey, let's face it. All I know how to do is take off my clothes." On the phone, she also told her mother: "I won't be undressing in public anymore." Rather than having a disfiguring surgery that she thought would ruin her film career (and make her unable to pay Tony's bills), she took a lethal drug overdose. Her final thoughts and memories were of Tony.
  • after recovering to some degree at the sanitarium, Neely made plans to join her agent Lyon in NYC for a planned stage comeback in a new Broadway show. Hints that they were having an affair reached Anne - and she was crushed with the news. It caused Anne to begin indulging in pill-popping - symbolized by a close-up of her new prescription..
  • although uninvited, Neely stormed into a press reception party for her former nemesis Helen Lawson whose new play was about to open. Confronting each other, they engaged in a wild hair-pulling cat fight in a fancy ladies' room. The argument began when Helen criticized Neely's lack of talent and promise due to drug abuse:

    "They drummed you right outta Hollywood, so ya come crawlin' back to Broadway. Well, Broadway doesn't go for booze and dope. Now you get outta my way, cause I've got a man waitin' for me."

  • Neely retorted: "That's a switch from the fags you're usually stuck with." Helen replied: "At least I never had to MARRY one!" Neely angrily shouted: "YOU TAKE THAT BACK!" as she pulled off Helen's wig and insulted her after noticing her gray hair: "Oh, my God. It's a wig!...HER HAIR'S AS PHONY AS SHE IS!" Neely gave the wig a "shampoo" by dropping it into a toilet bowl ("Giving it a shampoo. Goodbye, pussycat. Meeowwww!") but it wouldn't flush away. She tossed the wet wig back at Helen: ("Here it comes, special delivery"). Afterwards, she spoke to Lyon with words of advice: "I've had it rough before. I'm a barracuda. I don't need pills like Neely. Sure, I know you dried her out, but it won't last. Neely hasn't got that hard core like me. She never learned to roll with the punches. And believe me, in this business, they come left, right and below the belt...Nothing can destroy her talent. But she'll destroy it, my friend. Find yourself a good girl, have kids, or one day you'll wind up alone like me and wonder what the hell happened."
  • the news of Jennifer's suicide (in addition to her loss of Lyon to Neely and her beginning dependence on pills) was so upsetting to Anne that she abandoned everything to return back to her idyllic New England hometown.
  • Neely also self-destructed by needlessly breaking up with Lyon just before her opening night at The Playhouse Theatre in "Tell Me, Darling." After boasting to him: "I licked pills, booze and the funny farm. I don't need anybody or anything," she fired him: "Who needs you? You're just an agent!" Then, wearing her 2nd act costume, she appeared so disoriented and drunk for her stage entrance that she had to be replaced by her understudy. That night, she ended up in a bar drinking and ingesting pills - and then down-and-out as a burned-out addict in a deserted alleyway, all alone and calling out to all her discarded friends: "Where is everybody? Hey, everybody, where are you?" as a bell tolled.
  • in the film's ending, Lyon attempted to reconcile himself with Anne by visiting her in her hometown, but she decided to politely decline his proposal of marriage: ("It wouldn't work, Lyon...Perhaps someday, Lyon. I don't know"), choosing instead to be independent and single. Anne attempted to start fresh by walking away by herself down a snowy road.

Anne's (Barbara Parkins) Arrival in NYC from Her New England Hometown

Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward)

NYC Press Agent Mel Anderson (Martin Milner)

Neely (Patty Duke) - Deciding to Leave the Broadway Show

Lyon with Anne

Mel with Neely

Jennifer Listening and Becoming Infatuated With Lounge Singer Tony

Jennifer's Bust-Firming Exercises

Anne as the New "Gillian Girl"

Neely's Divorce From Mel - And Affair/Marriage to Ted Casablanca

Neely - Consuming "Dolls" with Alcohol

The Pool Confrontation Between Neely and Cheating Husband Ted (Alexander Davion)

Neely Fired From the Studio and Reprimanded by Her Agent Lyon

Jennifer Advertised as Appearing in European 'Nudie' Flicks

Neely: "Boobies, boobies, boobies. Nothin' but boobies"

Neely in LA Sanitarium

Jennifer (Sharon Tate) - After Being Tested for Breast Cancer

Jennifer's Suicidal Drug Overdose

Anne's First Use of Prescription Drugs

Helen and Neely's Confrontational Cat-Fight

Helen's Spiteful Words About Neely to Lyon

Neely Breaking Up with Her Agent Lyon

Neely Drunk and Disoriented Before Her Theatre Opening

Neely Drunk and Addicted In An Alleyway After Her Disastrous Opening Night


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