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January Wayne, the sheltered, much-loved daughter of a formerly successful Hollywood producer, goes home to New York after a lengthy stint in a Swiss hospital. Mike Wayne has fallen on hard times and decides to marry for money. January is an innocent young woman who searches for her place in the world. Pursued by her rich new stepmother's playboy of a cousin, she instead falls hard for a much older man, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who's a surrogate for her father, before tragedy strikes.
Once Is Not Enough is one of those films with the built in audience who were devoted followers of the works of Jacqueline Susann's. In fact to insure the fans of Jackie knew this film was about her book her name was worked into the title when released. Some might argue that the film was inflicted.
But to be fair the movie-going public knew this was trash going in and the cast knew this was trash as they spoke their lines with various degrees of conviction. One of the cast Brenda Vaccaro did it with so much conviction that she wound up with a nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to Lee Grant for Shampoo. Vaccaro does add quite a bit of zip to the film as the cheerfully hedonistic friend of protagonist Deborah Raffin. Jackie Susann clearly took that aspect of the film from Marjorie Morningstar and what Herman Wouk wrote in his novel and what was shown on film between Natalie Wood and Carolyn Jones.
Kirk Douglas plays an aging over the hill producer whose daughter Raffin had been in rehab for many years due to head injuries. She's now coming out and Douglas to provide for her and not incidentally to maybe get financing for his future projects becomes the latest of a string of husbands to billionairess Alexis Smith.
In the days of gay liberation it might not be understood, but what Smith wants is a what we used to call a beard. Her real passion is movie queen Merlina Mercouri whom we see too little of in Once Is Not Enough. I can't quite believe that Douglas is that big a fool that he doesn't realize he's married to a lesbian. It would have made more sense to have that part of the novel and film up front.
As for Raffin when sparks don't ignite between her and playboy cousin of Smith's George Hamilton she takes up with boozy over the hill novelist David Janssen. That doesn't sit well with Douglas who can't stand the guy, probably because except for the drink he sees too much of himself in Janssen. It threatens the daddy's little girl relationship he has with Raffin which is what drives the film.
Jackie Susann's fans made this one a winner at the box office, but the reticence of the film probably because certain folks the characters were modeled on were very much alive kind of neutered the content.
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