Palm Beach, Florida-one of the premier enclaves of the super-rich. A community in which private jets are as common as bottles of Dom Perignon. Young and innocent all-American beauty Roxanne Ulrich comes to town an outsider in this tightly knit society, but, by the time she leaves, she is its most notorious member. Roxanne is quickly seduced by the charming Herbert Pulitzer, handsome, older and possessing a confidence born of inherited wealth. Theirs is a whirlwind romance, the kind that exists only in fairy tales. But Roxanne's desire to raise a family conflicts with Herbert's breakneck life in the fast lane. Desperate to indulge himself, Herbert sweeps a confused Roxanne into a pattern of cocaine-fueled nights and affairs. She tries to break away from the depravity and devote herself to her children. The marriage is torn apart and a bitter divorce battle ensues. Soon the world is shocked by the intimate details of their decadent life. Written by
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
The divorce of Roxanne and Herbert Pulitzer was one of the great celebrity scandals of the1980s. (Rather confusingly, Herbert was also known as "Pete" or"Peter"; both names are used in his film). It had everything one could desire in a scandal, including allegations of drug abuse, adultery,lesbianism, three-in-a-bed orgies and incest. Most importantly it had class distinctions. Some Americans try to pretend that theirs is a lass-free society, but this pretence generally goes out of the window where scandal is concerned.
Herbert, a resident of the millionaire's retreat of Palm Beach, was the grandson of Joseph Pulitzer, the man who founded the Pulitzer newspaper empire and the Pulitzer prizes, and the heir to the family fortune. Roxanne was from a blue-collar family in upstate New York. Their marriage was therefore the American equivalent of the working-class girl who becomes a countess, and when it all went wrong in a welter of accusation and counter-accusation, the media had a field day, nicknaming Roxanne "Foxy Roxy".
Roxanne published her side of the story in her autobiography "The Prize Pulitzer", upon which this movie is based. Given its source, it is perhaps unsurprising that the film does not exactly approach the divorce with any attempt at even-handedness. The title might just have well have been "The Martyrdom of the Blessed Saint Roxanne at the Hands of the Evil Monster Herbert". According to this version, Foxy Roxy was taken in by a handsome, wealthy older man who turned out to be a monster of selfishness, trying to prevent her from having children, introducing her to drugs and bullying her into taking part, much against her will, in sexual threesomes with her friend Jacquie Kimberly.
The best way of dealing with Roxanne Pulitzer's story might have been to turn it into a glossy Hollywood blockbuster; it would not have been a great film, but might at least have been an enjoyably lurid romp along the lines of "Valley of the Dolls". Unfortunately, Hollywood did not seem interested, and "The Prize Pulitzer" ended up as a made-for-television movie with some of the more salacious details of the divorce case omitted, perhaps because television, which needs to retain the family audience, is a more puritanical medium than the screen. (Fear of possible lawsuits for defamation might also have played a part).
Had Hollywood made a film of these events, we might have had a more accomplished leading lady than Chynna Phillips. Chynna is, of course, better-known as a singer (she is part of the girl band Wilson Phillips) and on the evidence of this film she seems to have been well-advised to concentrate on a musical career rather than an acting one. Her performance as Roxanne is a one-dimensional one, playing her character as a pretty but naïve young woman who wears the same expression of wide-eyed innocence throughout. Perry King is appropriately suave and smooth as the Herbert of the earlier scenes, but seems insufficiently villainous in the later ones. Probably the best acting performance comes from a young, pre-"Friends" Courteney Cox as Roxanne's treacherous friend Jacquie.
Overall, however, "Roxanne, The Prize Pulitzer" is just another example of television taking a potentially interesting story and turning it into something bland and uninteresting. 4/10
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