Jacqueline Susann (Bette Midler) just wanted her place in the
spotlight. With no agent and no one calling for auditions, she
scraped by with residuals from the occasional radio jingle,
television commercial and game show appearance. Still, with every
failure - and there were plenty - she remained undeterred in her
quest for fame. A friend once told her that "talent wasn't
everything," and for no person was this more true.
Manager and publicist Irving Mansfield (Nathan Lane) knew he
was the one who could make Jackie's dreams come true. He also
knew that he was in love with the flamboyant actress. It was
arelationship made in show business heaven.
With Jackie's career going nowhere, and fast, Irving hit upon
an idea. A crazy idea, but an idea which just might make
Jacqueline Susann a household name. She would write a book.
Nevermind the fact that she had never written before. She would
write about what she knew: the crazy, steamy lives of
drug-addicted, sex-craved movie stars.
With her best friend Florence (Stockard Channing) by her side
for inspiration and Irving ather side for advice, encouragement
and deliveries of hot Pastrami, Jackie put pen to paper, with a
passion that was all-consuming... and a vocabulary that would
shock a sailor. The result was Valley of the Dolls, an inside
look at the highs and lows of showbiz as told by someone who had
experienced it first-hand. According to Irving, it was "like
Gone With The Wind, only filthy."
storyteller of her generation"
Finding a publisher was an entirely new challenge however, for
Jackie had tackled a subjectmatter considered entirely too taboo
for her time. Eventually, she landed a deal with the suave and
debonair publisher, Henry Marcus (John Cleese), whose keen sense
told him that with a little help, she just might become the
greatest storyteller of her generation. But first she would have
to do some heavy convincing, for her ultra-WASP-y editor Michael
Hastings (David Hyde Pierce) felt her book was "salicious,
perverted, soft-core porn" and unfit to print.
Jackie's eagerness to learn-and a charm that was all her
own-eventually won him over, and the book was published.
Jacqueline Susann had invented a whole new way of writing books,
and once she and Irving hit the road, the publishing world would
never be the same. Embarking on a book tour from coast to coast,
paying calls on regional booksellers and impressing Mom and Pop
shops with her intimate knowledge of all their personal lives,
Irving saw to it that everyone was clamoring to read Valley of
the Dolls. Together , Jackie and Irving invented a whole new way
of selling books.
Decked out in a fabulous Pucci wardrobe with her poodle
Josephine in tow, Jackie's perseverance and audacious
self-promotion helped make Valley of the Dolls one of the
best-selling novels of all time.
Unfortunately, success came to Jackie late in life, and a
diagnosis of breast cancer meant thatfulfilling her dreams was a
race against time. But her deteriorating health was no match for
sheer determination and the unfaltering support of an adoring
husband. She needed ten more years to achieve all she wanted, and
Irving saw to it that she would indeed have it all.
From New Yorker to
On August 14, 1995, the New Yorker Magazine ran an article by
Michael Korda entitledWasn't She Great, an homage to Jacqueline
Susann. It was Jackie's adoring husband Irving who frequently
looked at his wife and said, "Isn't she great!" which
was never phrased as a question, who inspired the title.
Through Korda's eyes, for the first time Susann appeared
bigger than life, more impassioned,funnier, and more resolute
than any of the characters in her books. She followed Valley of
The Dolls with The Love Machine and Once is Not Enough, making
her the most controversial and successful novelist of her
generation, but her ebullient public personality cast a long
shadow, and effectively masked her personal tragedies and
precarious health. Korda, one of two editors assigned by Simon
& Schuster to edit Jackie's second novel, found her to be one
of a kind, and then some. And Andrew Bergman and Mike Lobell
couldn't have agreed more.
While on production in Florida for Striptease, director
Bergman and producer Lobell read Korda's piece in the New Yorker,
and soon after, the duo who together have brought such comedy
hits as Honeymoon in Vegas, It Could Happen to You and The
Freshman to the screen, received a call from their agent, asking
if they were interested.
"There was real heart
to the story"
Although Bergman is considered one of the funniest writers in
the film business in additionto his success as a director, his
hands were full at the time, and knew he would not be available
toadapt the New Yorker piece. However, he knew he had found a
project to direct. Bergman says, "There was real heart to
the story, the idea of driving yourself despite numerous
obstacles to make something better is really very touching to
At that point, Bergman and Lobell called screenwriter Paul
Rudnick, who read it and very quickly agreed that it was a great
idea for a movie. Lobell says, "We thought Paul Rudnick had
the perfect sensibility to do something that was both funny and
poignant. Jackie was sort of an outrageous character, and he just
responded to the material the way we did." Rudnick's career
as a screenwriter includes Addams Family Values and In & Out;
a decent track record.
From there, Lobell, Bergman and Rudnick decided to loosen up
the story a bit to make room for the film they all wanted to
make. Says Lobell, "I don't think we've veered away from the
actual facts of Jackie's life, as much as we wanted to make the
Susann herself wasn't particularly funny, and even though her
relationship with Mansfieldwas somewhat unconventional, they were
devoted to each other, so, as Lobell says, "we decided to
focus on the love story and embellish the humour."