Valley of the Dolls

Movie review by
Grace Montgomery, Common Sense Media
Valley of the Dolls Movie Poster Image
Dark, campy melodrama with focus on sex and drugs.
  • PG-13
  • 1967
  • 123 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Although the majority of the film shows the three central characters behaving recklessly, the overarching message is that drinking excessively and taking drugs is dangerous and can ruin your chances of success and happiness. Fame may start out as glamorous, but it's quickly apparent that the trappings of fame can very easily become overwhelming and corruptive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Anne and Mel both show personal strength when they walk away from destructive relationships, which is a characteristic of a good role model.

Violence

One character commits suicide by overdosing on pills.

Sex

Although no one is shown completely nude, there are a few non-graphic sex scenes, and adult relationships and sexuality are shown. One character becomes a porn star and has an abortion, and another has a one-night stand with a stranger while intoxicated.

Language

Although profanity isn't used extensively, it's used occasionally throughout the movie and includes "bitch," "ass", "queer," "fag," "f----t," and "whore."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The majority of the characters is shown drinking and taking prescription drugs (called "dolls"). One character goes to rehab for addiction to pills, and another commits suicide by overdosing on them.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Valley of the Dolls is an intense melodrama (and cult classic) based on the novel by Jacqueline Susann about the darker side of fame. Drinking and prescription drug use is a central theme, though the film clearly illustrates how destructive addiction is. Adult sexuality also is a core theme (sex, pornography, and abortion all are plot points), and some adult language is used ("bitch," "ass", "queer"), making this film best for older teens and up.

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What's the story?

Three women are shown at the start of their careers in show business: conservative Anne (Barbara Parkins), who works for a talent agent; singer Neely (Patty Duke), who's just getting started on her Broadway career; and Jennifer (Sharon Tate), a backup dancer who's beautiful but doesn't think she has the talent to make it in show business. The film chronicles their successes but also how the pressures of fame, drug abuse, and drinking damage their careers, their personal lives, and their health.

Is it any good?

Although VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is melodramatic and feels a bit dated, it's worth a watch for the acting talent alone. Patty Duke is intense, dramatic, and wonderful as Neely; she believably expresses the optimism and naivete of a young girl getting her first big break and is equally as successful in portraying the jaded starlet struggling with the fallout of addiction. The movie is over the top, kitschy, and kind of campy, but it's a good guilty pleasure for older teens who are film buffs.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fame. Is it possible to manage the pressures of fame without the use of alcohol or drugs? Why do you think so many people have a hard time managing fame?

  • Do you think Anne should have stayed with Lion? Why, or why not?

  • Why do you think this movie is considered a cult classic?

Movie details

  • In theaters: December 15, 1967
  • On DVD or streaming: June 13, 2006
  • Cast: Patty Duke, Barbara Parkins, Paul Burke
  • Director: Mark Robson
  • Studio: Red Lion
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 123 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: thematic elements involving substance abuse, some sexual content, partial nudity and language

For kids who love classic tales

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