Since I managed to pick up a DVD copy of the movie in a bargain bin for a dollar I thought that was sufficient excuse to sit down and enjoy Valley of the Dolls all over again. It did not disappoint. It never does. In fact my admiration for this film grows and grows. Any movie can have the odd line of embarrassingly bad dialogue. Some have quite a few. But every single line of dialogue in Valley of the Dolls is magnificently awful. Each viewing brings out more of the truly epic quality of Patty Duke’s bad acting. It’s the kind of performance that comes along once in a lifetime. Sharon Tate gets to deliver a line that is exquisitely cringe-inducing even by this movie’s standards – yes, I mean the line about the bust exercises. Barbara Parkins is fighting out of her class in this company but she’s a game little trouper and she gives it her best shot, although one can’t help feeling that she didn’t know what movie she was making.
Susan Hayward is of course the one member of the cast who understood what was happening. She knew how bad the movie was, and she loved every minute of it. It was a role originally intended for Judy Garland, but I don’t think anyone could top Hayward. I don’t think I will ever get tired of watching this movie. It would be like growing tired of chocolate. In fact the pleasures of this movie increase with each viewing, because of the delicious sense of anticipation when you know that a really horrendous piece of dialogue is coming up, or an instance of overacting that achieves true grandeur, or a positively outrageous slice of maudlin sentimentality or, best of all, those moments when the film delivers one of its important moral messages.
This movie is the standard by which any movie that aspires to be a camp classic must be judged, and very few films have ever surpassed it. I just can’t wait to watch it again!