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Anne Welles, a bright, brash young New England college grad leaves her Peyton Place-ish small town and heads for Broadway, where she hopes to find an exciting job and sophisticated men. During her misadventures in Manhattan and, later, Hollywood, she shares experiences with two other young hopefuls: Jennifer North, a statuesque, Monroe-ish actress who wants to be accepted as a human being, but is regarded as a sex object by all the men she meets, and Neely O'Hara, a talented young actress who's accused of using devious means by a great older star (Helen Lawson) to reach the top, pulling an "All About Eve"-type deception in order to steal a good role away from her. Written by
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One of the great landmarks in the history of American cinema. This is one of those movies that tells it like it is, takes it on the chin, and really shows some SPARKLE. Oh yeah, the wigs and gowns are fab, too, especially that sequined poison-green trapeze minidress Patty Duke is too trashed to get into towards the end.
There is a kind of sublime awfulness about the performances that elevates every sentence in the screenplay to some scriptural stratum of indelible elegance. Lines like "Gee, honey, that ole witch oughta be boiled in oil," "You're not the BREADWINNAH either," and "SPARKLE, Neely, SPARKLE" ring with poetic resonance in one's mind long after viewing the film. Especially when you find yourself compulsively watching it over and over and over again...
The montage sequences are unbelievably powerful. Forget Medium Cool, you haven't experienced the true tacky splendor of the Sixties till you've seen Barbara Parkins' Gillian Girl Commercial. Get the soundtrack and use the jingle composed by master artiste Andre Previn on your answering machine. Why, all your friends will be ringing the phone off the hook just to have a listen.
As Superstar Helen Lawson, Susan Hayward is head and shoulderpads above the rest of the cast, especially when she's attempting to lipsynch her way through "I'll plant my own tree" while dodging the giant translucent fake Calder mobile (probably built by Monsanto) that's slowly revolving around her. The symbolic-castration wig-in-the-loo sequence has to be seen to be believed. "I'll go out the way I came in" admirably sums up the sentiments of everyone connected with this movie after it was released. See Patty Duke's autobiography for some anecdotes about the filming.
This movie pretty much destroyed Director Mark Robson's career, but it made pots and pots of money for the studio, and was still playing drive in theatres around the country years after its release. And curiously enough, many women I have known now in their fifties and sixties felt drawn to this film, felt that it spoke to them (if not for them) in a way nothing else up till that time had done.
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