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Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story (1981)

The life and death of the "Playboy" centerfold model/actress Dorothy Stratten.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
David Palmer
Hilda Flushing
Billy Compton
Hugh Gillin ...
Max Halloran
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Steven Hirsch ...
Jim Boeke ...
Linda Brooks ...
Model #1


TV version of the life and death of "Playboy" magazine centerfold Dorothy Stratten (1960-1980), a starry-eyed Canadian teenager who moved to Hollywood in the late 1970's seeking stardom and found it with her seedy promotor Paul Snider who promised Dorothy a career both as a star and his wife. Written by Matthew Patay <pataygs@voicenet.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama





Release Date:

1 November 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Death of a Centerfold  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Jamie Lee Curtis and Gloria Gifford also starred in Halloween 2 together, which was released just 2 days earlier. See more »


Version of Star 80 (1983) See more »

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User Reviews

Decent Made-for-TV Flick
6 March 2015 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story (1981)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Decent made-for-TV drama shows Dorothy Stratten (Jamie Lee Curtis) going from a small town waitress to the Playmate of the Year. Stratten, a natural beauty, begins her career thanks in large part to a con man (Bruce Weitz) that she meets. He manages to get her into the pages of Playboy and soon he becomes more and more possessive of the young woman. Feeling she owes him something, Dorothy agrees to marry him but things take a turn for the worse.

DEATH OF A CENTERFOLD certainly isn't an award-winner as it's held up by a lot of things that usually hold these types of movies back. If you're unfamiliar with the story then this here is a decent introduction to the events but there's no question that more could have been done with Stratten's story.

I think the strongest thing going for the film are some of the performances with Weitz easily stealing the picture as the controlling husband. I really thought the actor nailed every aspect of the role from the more charming moments to the ones where he slowly begins to break in regards to how much madness he can present. There are a few scenes where you pretty much see him go from hot to cool back to hot within the matter of seconds and I thought the actor pulled it off extremely well. Robert Reed also stands out in his role as a producer who takes Stratten in towards the end of her life. Mitchell Ryan is also good in his role as Hugh Hefner. As for Curtis, I thought she wasn't that strong in the lead but she manages to have a few nice moments including the final portion of the film. I thought she handled the finale quite well.

Most of the flaws are typical of this type of made-for-TV movie. There's certainly no great demand for high-art so you can't expect too much drama or well-made moments. Instead of a complete story we're pretty much given the highlights of the story and of course there are the over-dramatic moments of Stratten's aunt "fearing" for the safety of her. Another weak aspect is that the direction really just doesn't stand out or create anything that we haven't seen before. Even by 1981 the type of film showing women abused were pretty much done to death and this one here doesn't do anything fresh or original with it.

DEATH OF A CENTERFOLD pretty much set out to be the first movie on the market dealing with a subject that made a lot of headlines. This film was on television barely a year after Stratten was murdered so the producers at least got the film noticed while the headlines were still hot. With that said, there's certainly nothing awful about the film even though it falls well short of being anything special.

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