“The Raven haired sylph who walks in beauty like the night… Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that’s best of dark and bright; Meet in her aspect and her eyes…” — Lord Byron
It is so easy to look upon Barbara Parkins’ exquisite beauty and make that the initial distinction you recall about her as an actress before recounting the roles she’s contributed to, the iconic roles that have heightened the dream factory of our cultural consciousness that is — film and television. As Betty Anderson of Peyton Place and Anne Welles in Valley of the Dolls. But beyond the glamour and the pulp and the melodrama and the camp, there is an actress who not only possessed an otherworldly beauty but a depth of character and quality. Who touched our hearts but was one of the earliest women to kick ass too! As Betty Anderson, she broke ground in a role that discussed women who began to reflect on their bodies being used as negotiable product for men, even in good clean small moralistic New England towns. And through a lot of painful, solitary self discovery learned to rely on her own self-reliance and newly mined self respect. Barbara Parkins was leading the way three years before Jane Fonda was flyin’ free up in space in 1968’s Barbarella.
I have always been drawn to Barbara Parkins, her inherent sensuality, sophistication, her dreamy voice. There’s a deep well of desire and poetry simmering below that obvious beauty. She brings that sensuality with her to every versatile role as an actress. And that is why I’ve been in love with her since the very first time I saw her.
Directed by Mark Robson, produced by David Weisbart and Helen Deutsch, with a screenplay by Dorothy Kingsley and Harlan Ellison. Cinematography by William H. Daniels (CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF 1957, IN LIKE FLINT 1967)
Film editing by Dorothy Spencer (STAGE COACH 1939, TO BE OR NOT TO BE 1942, LIFEBOAT 1944 and CLEOPATRA 1963) Set Direction by Raphael Bretton (HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE 1964 and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE 1972) and Walter M Scott. (THE SOUND OF MUSIC 1965 and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID 1969) Art Design by Richard Day (ON THE WATERFRONT 1954, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE 1951 and THE GRAPES OF WRATH 1940) and Jack Martin Smith (BATMAN 1966 and PLANET OF THE APES 1968) and wardrobe by Travilla.
With all that creative talent on board, you can call the film trashy, but it sure has a lot of style!
Starring Barbara Parkins (THE MEPHISTO WALTZ 1971 never looking more beautiful in my opinion. One of my favorite horror films of the 70s, I plan on doing a long winded overview of it this Winter 2012.)
From the moment the utter fabulousness of this tawdry pulp icon of the 60s starts rolling on screen with Barbara Parkin’s heavenly visage gazing out the train window, and Dionne Warwick starts confessing the movie’s theme song with her soulful voice… I get vaklempt.
Doll a euphemism for little colored pills of varying types of barbiturates… ‘uppers’ and ‘downers.’
Based on the best selling explosively trashy novel by Jacqueline Susannand directed by of all people, Mark Robson.(THE SEVENTH VICTIM 1943, THE GHOST SHIP 1943, ISLE OF THE DEAD 1945 and well his tell tale progression into melodrama land with PEYTON PLACE 1957 and eventually into darker territories with DADDY’S GONE A- HUNTING 1969)
Growing up as a little girl in the 60s there wasn’t a coffee table or bookshelf that I didn’t see a copy of Valley of the Dolls sitting atop next to a hard cover of best selling self help book by Dr. Thomas A. Harris’, I’m Okay You’re Okay which was first published in 1967, the year Valley of The Dolls was released.
There was certainly a copy of it in my own house and I remember seeing the film either during it’s theatrical release or later on the huge Magnavox cabinet tv with only 3 dials. At first I was struck by the incredible score from composer John Williams and songs by Andre Previn and lyrics by Dory Previn. And then I fell under the spell of the badness and the beautifulness of it all….
Standing out is it’s vivid colors of the 60s film processing, the vogue style couture, flashy set design, and mod art direction. Populated by the campy over the top acting in all the right places of course, by the entire cast makes for one hell of a ride through the tunnel of tragic love in high dramaville. As cliche after libidinous, compulsive and histrionic cliche prance across the screen as a story of meandering disassembled desire, by the needful women, and their male companions.
It’s campy and tawdry and melodramatic trash, and that’s a GOOD THING, for us junkies of melodramatic trashy & campy flicks from the 1940s -1960s.