Jacqueline Suzann’s The Valley of the Dolls is a must-read for anyone who loves a good story about sex, drugs, and fully developed female characters. In the first installment,I noted that I am not a huge fan of the original film because it strays too far from the novel and reduces some of the characters to mere parody. Check out part one to see my picks for Anne and Lyon. Now, we’ll look at everyone’s favorite character, Neely O’Hara as well as Jennifer North and Helen Lawson.
In the novel, Neely O’Hara is the young firecracker with a powerhouse voice. She seems sweet and innocent at first but success reveals a dark side of her character. Her lying, cheating, conniving, and backstabbing lead her on a roller coaster ride of pills, sex, and booze.
Neely O’Hara Film Version
This role really requires a strong actor and singer who is young and fresh. I would be tempted to look for a complete unknown, but there are some young actresses who could handle all of the rigors of playing Neely. Anna Kendrick seems an obvious choice: she is young and spunky, she has a fantastic voice, and she has that kind of quirky cute pretty thing that makes Neely a star. I would also love to see Emma Watson in this role. She is more of a traditional beauty, but her star quality is undeniable. She also said recently that she would interested in doing a musical, so that means (hopefully) that she can sing. Neely is also the role where I think there is room for non-traditional casting. All of the characters in the original novel are white and things definitely were different for women of color in Hollywood back then, but a version of Neely O’Hara that is inspired by groundbreaking women of color like Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, and Rita Moreno would be interesting to watch. Zoe Kravitz has that off-kilter charisma and she sings in her own band so she would bring a whole new dimension to Neely.
Neely O’Hara TV Version
There are plethora of fresh young faces on TV, and Lucy Hale, Keke Palmer, and Vanessa Hudgens are all lovely ladies with pipes to match. I would love to see any of them take on such a juicy and complex role.
Neely O’Hara Broadway Version
Cristin Millioti and Jennifer Damiano are two of Broadway’s best. Milioti has taken Broadway by storm in the Tony-winner Once and Damiano has, at age 21, already starred in Next to Normal and Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. I would love to see them battle it in auditions for this amazing, career-changing role.
Jennifer North is beautiful, but occasionally simple and a bit dull. She is also kind in a way that Neely is not. Jennifer doesn’t really have talent, just good looks and she works to cash in on her looks before they start to fade. All she really wants is a husband and family, but ultimately her dream eludes her.
Jennifer North Film Version
Scarlett Johanssen is a stunning beauty with the acting chops and subtle warmth to take on this role. Blake Lively has less experience but I think she most embodies Jennifer’s simple dignity. Kate Bosworth, the only of the aforementioned never to be married to Ryan Reynolds, possesses the right combination of softness and sex appeal as well.
Jennifer North TV Version
Amber Heard, best known for the short-lived The Playboy Club definitely has the assets for the role, and Glee‘s Diana Agron has grown from TV mean girl to sultry vixen before our eyes. Finally, AnnaLynne McCord of 90210 and Nip/Tuck is not just a pretty face. Although she often plays the femme fatale, she also has the acting skill to balance sweetness with seduction.
Jennifer North Broadway Version
Yes, Amanda Seyfried and Taylor Swift could feature in the film version, but I think their particular skills would be put to the best use in a stage musical.This would be an opportunity for Swift to prove her acting chops and for Seyfried to bring her combined talents to the live stage.
Helen Lawson is a fading Broadway star. Neely gets her big break when she gets a small role in Helen’s show. Helen’s ruthlessness has gotten her to the top, but the price is loneliness and paranoia. Helen is a meaty and delicious supporting role and although some actresses may be wary of portraying a fading star, I think these talented actresses could sink their teeth into the role.
Helen Lawson Film Version
It’s been a while since Rene Russo has had a substantial role, and I would love to see her back in action as the force of nature known as Helen Lawson. I think a role like this would really be a career rebirth for Melanie Griffith who has worked on stage recently and she is ready to return to the big screen. Also, Kathleen Turner has moved on to directing for the stage, but she still acts (mostly on stage as well). She would be an ideal Helen Lawson because she combines blistering wit with equal parts bluster and torment.
Helen Lawson TV and Stage Versions
These ladies are so talented that they are equally comfortable on stage and screen.Stockard Channing is a top choice because she has the full package as an actress, singer, and and scene stealer. Christine Baranski often plays more high class ladies, but I think she would shine as the blowzy stage vet. Donna Murphy is maybe a few years too young, but her amazing stage presence is the ideal quality for Helen.
So, here is to hoping that someone picks up this Valley of the Dolls pilot and runs with it (and hires me to cast it!)