My review of Valley of the Dolls on Goodreads
This caused quite an uproar in its day upon first being published. The genre of trashy pulp literature or the kind that one finds among the tabloids at the supermarket checkout register had not yet come into frame. This book made it en vogue. The tale of three struggling actresses and their descent into drug abuse as a price of fame provided juicy adaptations of lesbian sex scenes that read like a bitchy back stage gossip rag. Susann had intended it to be a fictionalized account of her own personal experiences gleaned from her years trudging around Hollywood as a failed actress. The axe she had to grind was undoubtedly the source of her acerbic tone. A phenomenon was created that trickled down to the campy, Technicolor film that has come to symbolize the essence of gay camp and paperback porn. The scandal surrounding the making of the film was played out much to the delight of its fans and served as an appropriate homage to the crux of the story's themes. A star's ego and a career addled by drug abuse was what caused Judy Garland to be fired from the set shortly after she was cast as the aging diva Helen Lawson. The part eventually went to Susan Hayward, long past her day in the sun, who played the caricature of Bette Davis and Norma Desmond like a quarterback queen. She chewed up the scenery with as much aplomb as appropriate for a catfight scene that no doubt served as the inspiration for future duels wracked on the Dynasty set between its two polar power-femmes.The Lawson character was supposed to have been based on Judy Garland, a detail that she refused to acknowledge. The film gave credence to Patty Duke's box office appeal into her adulthood and earned iconic status after the assassination of its other star Sharon Tate. The Manson massacre occurred a few short years after the film's debut and the death of Jennifer North hauntingly foreshadows the death of the buxom beauty. Most people I have encountered are only aware of the film as few have actually read the book or seem aware of its existence. I urge anyone listening to pick up a copy and read it from cover to cover. It can be done without stopping, from my experience. A hollow sequel published about five years ago aims to capitalize on the fame of the Dolls brand but earns less merit than a recycled Danielle Steel vehicle. Shadow of the Dolls should have remained so, from my opinion. A 2000 film called Isn't She Great starring Bette Midler parodied the life of Jackie Susann around the time Valley of the Dolls was published. Shot in Pepto pink celluloid, it was fluffier than the book aimed to be and was subsequently panned.