“You’ve got to climb Mount Everest to reach the valley of the dolls.”
At one point or another we’ve probably all related to the dolls in some way – especially women. I remember going through my Jennifer phase in early college, which did have a little to do with my Sharon Tate obsession, and I think I’ve always strived to be an Anne. I do want to say that none of these characters are really defined by the titles I have given them below, but these are words that could definitely describe them at that time in their life when they let their loneliness or their power get ahead of them. It’s amazing how impressionable we, as humans, can be. In Valley of the Dolls we see several different outcomes of the positive and negative choices made by five different women. The amazing thing is that even good attributes can lead to a terrible end when not balanced with one’s own strength and dignity.
Dolls in the book and film was meant to represent pills, the women themselves often being seen or used as toys, and something you cling to for comfort.
◙ Anne Welles: The Quiet Dreamer
“You’re fortunate you know yourself. I don’t know who I am, or what I want. I just know I have to find out.”
Anne was a small town girl who dreamed of the hustle and bustle of the big city. Luckily, she had a glamorous face to help get her there. She is quiet throughout most of the movie, and handles things far more gracefully than the other girls. She doesn’t talk about her dreams or ambitions out loud, but still has no problem putting herself out there – this is, until she falls for Lyon. Anne’s weaknesses began to show when she put a romantic relationship above herself. However, Lyon refused to do the same. Anne only excelled when she was away from the man she so desperately loved but could not have.
◙ Neely O’Hara: The Go-Getter
“I didn’t have dough handed to me because of my good cheekbones, I had to earn it.”
Neely starts out as a strong role model. She’s talented, a hard worker, and always stands up for herself… even if it means quitting a Broadway show. Slowly but surely, we see her fall apart when she lets the fame go to her head and is unable to live without her dolls. Just imagine if Neely had kept her wits about her; she would have been unstoppable.
◙ Jennifer North: The Victim
“I know I don’t have any talent, I know all I have is a body, and I AM doing my bust exercises!”
Jennifer, played by the lovely Sharon Tate, was a bit naive to say the least. The little bit you’re actually able to pick up is that she has a difficult relationship with her mother and is not very respected by the men in her life. Her one saving grace comes when singer, Tony Polar walks into her life, only to be taken away from her just as fast. With no money and no desire to find love again, Jennifer joins the porn industry and lets the dolls take over. Though it’s easy to blame the mother, or the men, or the tragic events, Jennifer never took responsibility for herself. She was beautiful and knew a lot of people that could have helped her reach new heights in her profession. Instead she chose to play the victim and give up.
◙ Helen Lawson: The God Complex
“The only hit that comes out of a Helen Lawson show is Helen Lawson, and that’s ME, baby, remember?”
Helen Lawson was probably once Neely. Both women hate each other throughout the film, but are exactly the same person with only years in-between. Helen just could not age gracefully, she didn’t believe in “going out with a bang” because that means she would have to go out – out of the fame bubble she had become accustomed to. There is some belief of literal immortality here, a notion that may get you far, but will eventually go too far unless you know when enough is enough. After all, a lady always knows when it’s time to leave the party.
◙ Miriam Polar: The Caregiver
“How many times do I have to tell you? At night, all cats are gray.”
I always felt so sorry for Miriam, more so than any of the others. I could not understand why her life was always all about taking care of everyone else and never herself. She could not have been that old but she was already cold and jaded. Throughout the story she never takes a lover and her entire world revolves around taking care of Tony and Jennifer – and to no avail. Had Miriam stopped to think about herself for any length of time she could have gone far and probably been happier than any of the characters. In a way she is the opposite extreme of everyone; the least selfish yet just as unhappy.