10 Things I Learned: Valley of the Dolls and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
By Susan Arosteguy
Hoping to exercise some creative control over the film adaptation of her best seller Valley of the Dolls, novelist Jacqueline Susann expressed her own ideas about who should be cast. She wanted Ursula Andress for the role of Jennifer, Bette Davis for Helen Lawson, Shirley MacLaine for Neely, and Elvis Presley for Tony Polar. Grace Kelly was on the writer’s wish list for Anne—but only “if she lost ten to fifteen pounds.” Susann was overruled by producer David Weisbart, who wanted to be more conservative in casting and ultimately hired actors who were less established in Hollywood, like TV star Barbara Parkins and fashion model Sharon Tate. Susann’s displeasure with some of the final casting decisions led her to dismiss the film as “a piece of shit.” Above: Susann in a meeting with Mark Robson, who went on to direct the film, and Twentieth Century-Fox president Richard Zanuck on the Fox lot (left); Susann with Patty Duke and Lee Grant (right).