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James Steven Sadwith
Marcia Gay Harden
Biography of billionaire tobacco heiress Doris Duke looks at her bizarre lifestyle, including her troubled childhood, her world traveling for audiences with mystics, a face lift at age 79, and her mysterious death in 1993 at age 80. But even upon her death, oddities continued as she left the affairs of her hotly contested estate to her hard-drinking butler, who had controlled much of her life and was accused by others of causing her death. Written by
John Sacksteder <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I am watching this film for the third time since I first saw it about two years ago when it originally aired. I am amazed by how little recognition it got at the time, and that it was totally overlooked for any Emmy nominations! I knew little of the life of Doris Duke when this movie aired, and I tuned in more because of the presence of the incredible Lauren Bacall. To see that this woman, now in her 70's, is still working, and taking on leading roles in major productions like this, is a sign of some good things in Hollywood. Upon seeing pictures of the real Doris Duke, I was suprised how much Bacall looked like her. Considering she lived in L.A., it would be some coincidence if they never met! One thing they did have in common. In Bacall's biographies, she mentions knowing writer Louis Bromfield, who is played here by the wonderful Brian Dennehy. Duke and Bromfield had a brief but romantic relationship, portrayed here by Bacall and Dennehy. As the young Doris Duke, Lindsay Frost (best known to me as Meg Ryan's replacement as Betsy on "As the World Turns") gives a tender and touching performance. As Chanzy, the young girl Duke adapts, Mare Winningham appropriately switches from duitiful daughter to partying young adult. Then, there is Doris's cold-hearted mother (played with a delicious manevolance by Kathleen Quinlan). This woman's heart is thicker than Alaskan Icebergs! And the things she does which affect Doris's future are horrifying! There is a memorable scene between the 44-year old Quinlan as the aged Mama Duke and the 74-year old Bacall as her daughter where all the anger and hatred comes spewing forward. Richard Chamberlain portrays the cool somewhat creepy butler Bernard, a man with or without a motive on his mind. All rememberances of "The Thorn Birds" and "Shogun" will be forgotten while watching him in this film. This is where the unsolved mystery comes in. Did he or didn't he? This film will have you wondering what part he played in Doris Duke's death. Yet, it is Bacall who commands with her diva-like presence. As Duke, she invests her heart totally into the ups and downs of what makes this character tick. According to this, Doris Duke was no selfish, money hungry cold-hearted rich witch. She was a woman with feelings, dreams, tendernesses, vulnerabilities, and wanted someone with whom she could share them. Viewers who can look past the trappings of wealth, power, and position will find their heart breaking along with Doris Duke's. It is this quality of the film alone that makes it an unforgettable experience. I would also like to mention the fabulous musical score that adds to the sweeping epic affect of one of the best TV movies in recent years!
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