Wednesday, August 17, 2016

ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH 1975

The short-lived Jaqueline Susann #1 bestseller book-to-film trilogy train ground to a wheezy and sluggish halt with 1975’s Once is Not Enough. The film adaptions of Valley of the Dolls (1967), The Love Machine (1971), and Once is Not Enough may not have been perfect (or even good), but to me they’re a fairly accurate visual representation (perhaps too much so) of the author’s chief obsessions and preoccupations—sex, drugs, and the seamy lifestyles of the rich & famous—while simultaneously serving as a clear-cut example of the law of diminishing returns.

The first author to have three consecutive novels reach the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list, Susann wrote only six books in her brief but prolific career (two published after her death in 1974) but left a controversially indelible mark, if not on literature, then certainly on pop culture and the book publishing industry. And while her novels sparked endless debate about the cultural folly of mistaking “popular” for “good,” the quality of the films adapted from her books was never in question: Susann herself thought they were all pretty lousy.
So disgusted by what they did to her “Dolls” baby, Susann excused herself from the film’s seaborne press junket (Valley of the Dolls was promoted with an ocean liner scuttling cast members to premiers at various ports) vowing to have more control over the screen adaptation of her next book. She did, but in spite of her efforts and those of executive-producer husband Irving Mansfield, the film version of The Love Machine actually turned out to be worse.
Susann’s fourth novel Once is Not Enough was published in 1973 and is the third and last of her books to be made into a film. Although too ill at the time to be involved to the degree she’d like (or even make her usual onscreen cameo), Susann unofficially collaborated on the screenplay with 65-year-old Casablanca (!) screenwriter Julius J. Epstein. Susann died of cancer before Once is Not Enough was released (in September of 1974. The film opened in June of 1975) but Epstein informed Variety and the New York Times that she was displeased with how little screen time he devoted to the character of Karla (the most sympathetic and fleshed-out personality in the book) and accused him of mishandling the big lesbian scene.
Gloria Steinem once wrote, "Compared to Jacqueline Susann, Harold Robbins writes like Proust." So perhaps it's homage that inspired Once is Not Enough's use of a "kneeling lovers" graphic similar to that which appears on the 1970 poster for Harold Robbins' The Adventurers 

Valley of the Dolls was a boxoffice hit; The Love Machine flopped, and Once is Not Enough was a dud. None of the films are what anyone would call exemplary examples of the cinematic art, but only Valley of the Dolls made money and stood the test of trash film time. It’s common for authors uninvolved in the screen adaptations of their books to decry that had they been allowed to write a more faithful adaptation, the films would have turned out better. Beyond a lot of ego-based, after the fact, shoulda/woulda/coulda speculation, there’s very little evidence of this ever truly being the case. 

I’m fairly certain Jacqueline Susann would not have been happy with the completed film of Once is Not Enough, a book that was popular enough to become the 2nd largest selling novel of 1973 (behind Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, of all things). But I’ve always found it ironic that Susann, an author whose typical defense to criticism of her writing ability was to point to her book sales and declare she’s crying all the way to the bank; could not grant a similar avenue of escape to the critically-maligned but very successful film made from her first bestseller. Susann may not have liked Valley of the Dolls, but by her own questionable standards, wasn’t popular success a valid measure of merit? 
Kirk Douglas as Mike Wayne
Bought for $3 Million, he earned every penny of it
Deborah Raffin as January Wayne
Still a virgin at 19, but eager to make up for lost time
David Janssen as Tom Colt 
Mr. Virility couldn't live the fantasies he wrote about
Alexis Smith as Deidre Milford Granger
She married many men, but her real love was a woman
George Hamilton as David Milford
The Swinging Set's most wanted "escort"
Brenda Vaccaro as Linda Riggs
Silicone in her chest, ice water in her veins. High-fashion editor with low desires
Melina Mercouri as Karla
The ugly rumors about her love life were true
Gary Conway as Hugh Robertson
To the world he was a hero, to his wife he was something else
While I can’t attest to Susann’s novel having any literary value, I can certainly confirm that the film adaptation is steeped in Ancient Myth and Fantasy. Which is to say Once is Not Enough is a film made by a bunch of very old men about a young girl with an Electra complex who lives in a fantasy world populated by beautiful young women who can’t get enough of the saggy, crepey flesh of men twice their age, and where male impotence is regarded as the stuff of Greek Tragedy.

Mike Wayne (Douglas), onetime hotshot Hollywood producer, has fallen on hard times. Wayne (much like this film) is a bit of a dinosaur; a victim of a youth-centric shift in public tastes. Unable to get a film off the ground, the fortunes of the two-time Oscar winner dwindle as his 19-year-old daughter January (Raffin) rakes up hefty medical bills relearning how to walk and talk in a Swiss rehab facility. You see, when she was 16, January was involved in a nasty motorcycle accident triggered by a jealous response to learning that dear old dad was boinking one of his leading ladies.
Now, three years later, January is ready for release and Mike is determined to keep her in a fool’s paradise, luxury-wise. What’s a fella to do? Make the moves on one of the 5th wealthiest women in the world, that’s what. A task which proves to be surprisingly easy, by the way.
The Things We Do For Love
Mike puts in a little overtime in his effort to secure his daughter's financial future

Those Swiss doctors must be worth their weight in gold, for January emerges from her ordeal (five operations in three years) looking none the worse for wear. Indeed, she looks as though she’s just returned from an extended stay at La Costa.
But alas, January’s whirlwind New York welcome of champagne, caviar, Plaza Hotel, Goodyear blimp, and lots of pseudoincestual canoodling, comes to an abrupt halt once she meets Daddy’s new wife and keeper (and her rival): the classy but mannish Deirdre Milford Granger (Smith).
I suppose one doesn’t get to be the 5th richest woman in the world without mastering the art of multitasking, so while keeping her husband’s wrinkled gonads in an vice and trying to foist her virginal stepdaughter on her rather oily, Reggie Mantle-ish cousin David (Hamilton); Deirdre still manages to find time to go hallway to hallway with fading movie goddess (“She’s a bigger recluse than Garbo or Howard Hughes!”) Karla (Mercouri). Karla, who remains as much an enigma to us viewers as she does to her fans in the film, rounds out Once Is Not Enough's bedroom roundelays by carrying on a side affair with the much-younger David.
Girl Talk
Generations from now, film scholars will still be discussing
the significance of that big hunk of bologna 

Meanwhile, January visits old school chum Linda Riggs (Vaccaro), who’s now the potty-mouthed, man-crazy editor of a women’s magazine. Although their friendship begs credibility (January is barely 20, Linda is 28. What the hell kind of school did they go to?) it’s nothing compared to the speed with which Linda offers January both a job and an apartment.
Enter Tom Colt (that name!), a hard-drinkin’ he-man writer (Janssen) who also happens to be the sworn enemy of Mike Wayne. So of course January, unable to get daddy for herself, falls for daddy-surrogate. On the periphery of all this, serving no real purpose save that he was a character in the book, is astronaut Hugh Robertson (Conway). His scandalous problem is that his wife divorced him. In a story already cluttered with characters the film barely has time for, Conway’s presence is baffling. Did someone owe him a favor?

With all the characters assembled and in place, the plot, such as it is, pretty much boils down to whether or not our star-crossed lovers (make that DNA-crossed lovers) can find happiness in the arms of substitutes, when propriety, decency, and a squeamish Oscar-winning screenwriter in his 60s (“I’ve got lesbianism, but I draw the line at incest!”) demand their love remain forbidden. 
Jacqueline Susann described Once is Not Enough as being about “mental incest”: not the real deal, just the love a doting father has for his only daughter, and a young girl’s lifelong infatuation with the first important man in her life.
Whatever you call it, I call it inert. Once is Not Enough is two hours of sizzle and no steak. Characters talk a lot, but outside of Brenda Vaccaro’s one-note raunch act (which seemed a lot funnier back in 1975 before Kim Cattrall gave us six seasons and two movies worth of it in Sex and the City) the film is sorely lacking in Valley of the Dolls-level hooty dialog. And for a film based on a Susann novel, the sleaze factor is surprisingly low. I mean, what is Jacqueline Susanne but the Pucci'd paperback purveyor of glossy sex and drugs?

Vacarro smokes a joint, but alcohol is the sole drug of choice in Once is Not Enough. Like an episode of Bewitched, every room in this film comes with a well-stocked bar, and characters are forever hoisting a glass. Even January’s drug addiction problem from the novel (a dependency on speed-like vitamin shots) is reduced to a single line of dialog. And as for the sex, there's precious little. Precious little you'd want to see, anyway. There's Deborah Raffin clutching a sheet to her bosom, Gary Conway in short-shorts, and middle-aged lesbian action; but (My eyes! My eyes!) David Janssen is granted the film’s only nude scene.
Melina Mercouri grasps while George Hamilton narrowly escapes having
his hair (or face) move in this production still of a scene cut from the film. 

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
It seems to be the natural course of events in the entertainment business that once someone makes a killing appealing to lowbrow popular tastes; the one thing they desire most is to be taken seriously. The film version of Valley of the Dolls brilliantly rose (or sunk) to the precise level of Susann’s trashy-but-readable novel, and, of course, she hated it. Thus, with each successive film we got Susann desperately trying to turn her sow’s ear material into silk purses. The result: drained of all their fun and sleaze, The Love Machine and Once is Not Enough both emerged as nothing but trite melodrama. Worse, they were dull, dull, dull.
When Old Coots Meet
Limp as a noodle yet always ready to prove he still has the ol' poop, the ever-inebriated Tom Colt confronts Mike Wayne over turning one of his novels into a lousy movie. Reading this scene Jacqueline Susann must have thought "Pot, meet kettle!"

Once is Not Enough needed the punch of a vulgar director, hack writer, and actors ill-equipped to modulate the pitch of their performances. The last thing it needed was restraint. What it got was a director of “serious dramas” (Guy Green of A Patch of Blue & Light in the Piazza), an Oscar-winning screenwriter, the cinematographer of Chinatown (John A. Alonzo), and a cast underplaying to the point of somnambulism (Vaccaro & Mercouri, notwithstanding). Once is Not Enough commits the fatal mistake of taking itself and its preposterous plot seriously. Sound the death knell.
If I have any fondness for this movie at all (Lord knows why, but I do) it's because: 1. It's part of the Jackie Susann screen trilogy and you just can't break up a set. 2. There's just enough "good bad" to keep your interest between naps. 3. It opened at the Alhambra Theater in San Francisco when I was still working there as an usher, so in addition to having seen it more times than I can count, I have nice memories of the steady stream of middle aged ladies who poured into the theater on Sunday matinees to see this piece of...cinema history.
Veteran character actress Lillian Randolph as Mabel
"I've worked for your father for 12 years and it was one long parade of poontang."

PERFORMANCES
A quick look and you’d swear January is played by a time-traveling Gwyneth Paltrow, but of course the bland role is blandly assayed by the late Deborah Raffin. And although only her third film, it’s Raffin’s second time portraying a girl with a fetish for old dudes (the first was 1973’s 40 Carats). Were Once is Not Enough the TV-movie it feels like, Raffin’s performance would be perfectly serviceable (see: George Hamilton), but on the big screen her mono-expression only emphasizes the degree to which she’s hamstrung by a script that can’t discern the subtle difference between naïve and dim-witted.
Jacqueline Susann was a huge Dionne Warwick fan
Warwick is the only person to "appear" in all three of Jacqueline Susann's films. She sang the themes for VOD & The Love Machine, and here she peers over Raffin's shoulder from a window display

Making a welcome return to the screen after a 14-year-absence, Alexis Smith, then enjoying a career resurgence thanks to her Tony Award winning turn in the Broadway musical Follies, is saddled with a Dina Merrill role with a gimmick. Photographed and dressed unflatteringly (designer Moss Mabry channeling Vera Charles in Mame…the Lucy one!) Smith’s rather good performance never has the chance to emerge from under the weight of the stunt-like publicity surrounding her character’s bisexuality. 
With no "wig down the toilet" scene (VOD) or "Hollywood party brawl" to publicize (Love Machine), Once Is Not Enough's sole marketing gimmick was to promote the film's lesbian relationship as though it were a circus act

With Kirk Douglas acting with his chin dimple and David Janssen doing his usual sleepwalking growl and grumble bit (I was stunned to discover the actor was only 43 when he made this. He easily looks ten years older), small wonder that Brenda Vaccaro (on the last legs of a six-year relationship with Kirk's son, Michael) garnered so much attention. In a role that in later decades became the "sassy black girlfriend" trope, Vaccaro is easily the best thing in the film, but I don't really see how she got an Oscar nomination and Golden Globe win out of it. Not in a year that saw the release of ShampooThe Day of the Locust, Nashville (Geraldine Chaplin!), The Stepford Wives (Paula Prentiss!), Tommy (Tina Turner!), Night Moves (Jennifer Warren!), and Funny Lady (Roddy McDowall!).
"Listen, if you don't appreciate rock I've got plenty of  others. Mood stuff. How's this... 'Music To Get It Up By'?" The album in question was a hit for Vikki Carr in 1967

THE STUFF OF FANTASY
Movies like this make me understand why so writers and directors freak out when their ages are revealed on IMDB. Everything about Once Is Not Enough is a testament to the median age of its creative team (which hovers somewhere around the 55-65 mark). Sure, one of the film’s themes is how quickly the world is changing, but honestly, this film looks and like it was made in 1967.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the jaw-dropping scene where David takes January to his bachelor pad and tries to seduce her. The apartment is one of those garish, patently soundstage-bound creations that wouldn't be out of place in one of those tedious Tony Curtis sex romps of the '60s. In fact, it looks like it's a sublease from Dean Martin during his Matt Helm phase.
Although it's smack in the middle of the cocaine-and-amyl fueled '70's, David doesn't bring out the drugs and crank up the rock music. No, he plies 20-year-old January with champagne and tries to get her in the mood with ersatz Frank Sinatra music. The entire scene is so "off" and out-of-time it feels like a reenactment of a deleted scene from Hamilton's 1960 flick Where the Boys Are, with Raffin standing in for Dolores Hart.

Once Is Not Enough preserves the "blue robe" motif established in The Love Machine

THE STUFF OF DREAMS
So the cliché goes: after money and fame, they all want respect. Given that the film Jacqueline Susann’s disliked the most has ultimately turned out to be the best and most enduring of the lot, maybe there’s something to be said for ambition keeping in step with perspective. The fact that Valley of the Dolls has gained a cult status hasn’t changed it from being a bad film into a good one; it merely illustrates that under certain circumstances, subjective qualifiers like “good” and “bad” do well to take a back seat to words like "entertaining" and "campy fun."  As my blog list of favorite films proves, when it comes to the movies that bring us back again and again, goodness often has nothing to do with it.
For all the hype, this kiss never even appears in the completed film. Karla & Deidre kiss later on in the scene, but the camera can't scurry away fast enough. Production notes and stills reveal two differently-scripted love scenes between Smith & Mercouri were filmed, the Susann-penned scene being the one jettisoned. Along those same lines, two different ending were filmed and tested on audiences. Given how flat the selected one is (those Henry Mancini Singers!) I don't even want to imagine what failed the test screenings

BONUS MATERIAL
Brenda Vaccaro's inhale-heavy tampon commercials were comedy fodder for 70s late-nite TV hosts
Watch It HERE

TV star David Janssen was the Excedrin spokesman for as long as I could remember
Watch It Here

My earliest memory of the underutilized Gary Conway is of him straining his T-shirt in I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (1957). Before embarking on an acting career  and gaining notoriety on the sci-fi TV program Land of the Giants, Conway was a teen "physique" model. No longer a teen, in 1973 he nevertheless reverted back to type and appeared au naturale in the August issue of Playgirl magazine (a copy of which I stole from a local supermarket at the time). Too bad Once Is Not Enough saw fit to keep Conway clothed while Flabby McHairycheeks is the one to shoot us a moon.

To read more about Once Is Not Enough (like finding out the significance of the title) check out the great write-up at Poseidon's Underworld.


Daddy Dearest
Copyright © Ken Anderson

49 comments:

  1. I'm going to have to see this for Melina Mercouri and George Hamilton alone. I know, I am of a tragic and rare breed, the Hamilton fan. For some reason stilted and preppy just works for me (see All the Fine Young Cannibals, one of my all time favorite horrible movies), and we share a birthday (with a slight age difference... he's my grandparents' generation). Thank you for this extremely detailed writeup, I like your connoisseurdom on all things Jacqueline Susann!

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    1. Hi Calliewanton
      "For some reason stilted and preppy work for me" I love that! I think we should all be proud of our rare crushes (me, I'm unaccountably in love with Keith Carradine). Compared to uber-bland stars like Bradley Cooper, George Hamilton is practically an idiosyncratic.
      Melina Mercouri is a favorite, and it's always such a shame when they get an actress like her to do an American film only to leave so much of her performance on the cutting room floor. I've read she was a die-hard Garbo fan in real life, so she must have loved getting a chance to play a roman a clef take on her idol.
      Thanks for the kind words and hope you get around to getting your George Hamilton fix by seeing this film sometime soon!

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  2. There is no good reason AT ALL, but I L-O-V-E this movie! I cannot get enough of it and it's baffling as to why... The poster (with its nude lovers) makes promises that the comparatively chaste film never keeps, it's long, often-dreary and tiresome, and yet if I go more than 2 or 3 years without a viewing, I show signs of withdrawal. (And reading your fun, insightful, delightful post has - I'm afraid - whetted my appetite again!) I have precious little patience with January and her whiny petulance, but I adore Dee, wardrobe warts and all. I do want to warn calliewanton about the eyeglasses that Georgie wears in the movie for certain stretches of time... Gawd. Anyway - I loved this post and am still sniggering about the bologna!!!

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    1. Hi Poseidon
      Well, we connoisseurs of bad films know there is PLENTY to love in this movie! It's just that movies like this seem to operate on some Bizarro World principle: one's affection for it grows in direct proportion to the escalating degree to which it falls off the rails.
      Your use of the word "chaste" is very apt in describing this movie's unwillingness to go where the plot and characters keep wanting to take us. It feels like the screenwriter was put off by the material he was asked to adapt.
      I can't imagine what even a good actress could have done with the role of January, but Alexis Smith IS fun to watch, especially when she goes off about her plans for January. And her wardrobe, of course...Moss Mabry is the 70s what Nolan Miller was to the 80s. Thanks, Poseidon!

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  3. Ken, great minds think alike...I am currently writing a piece on Jacqueline Susann and Grace Metalious...both wrote scandalous mega-sellers, with "Dolls" and "Peyton Place." Fascinating women, both. Both unhappy with film versions of these books. Both made by Twentieth Century Fox. Both directed by journeyman director, Mark Robson.

    As for film adaptations of Susann's novels, aside from "cleaning up" i.e. dulling down her stories, they always seemed to be filled with "veteran" stars and TV "starlets." Fun for campy movie lovers, but Susann cinema always felt like those REAL disaster movies of the late '60s and '70s!

    And the male actors in these film versions are either tired (Kirk Douglas, Robert Ryan, David Janssen) or wooden (all the male "Dolls," John Phillip Law from "Love Machine," and George Hamilton from "Once."

    Kirk Douglas gets my Joan Crawford You're As Young As You Feel Award for always playing 20 years younger than his actual age once he hit 50! Douglas was 60ish in Once, and yet he's a rich woman's plaything... You can watch him a half a dozen years later playing ex-Angel Farrah Fawcett's lover in "Saturn 3" on YouTube. Looking at their nekkid love scenes is fascinatingly perverse...Kirk's careful camera angles, Farrah's T&A, directed by Stanley Donen, no less! Sadly, Kirk never played an aging, but horny circus owner whose daughter wants to kill him...I guess "Once is not Enough" will have to do!

    And yes, I remember SCTV's Andrea Martin's asthmatic take on Brenda Vaccaro's Tampon ads!

    Cheers,
    Rick

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    1. Hi Rick
      Hey, that piece on "Peyton Place" & "Valley" sounds like a natural! I never before thought of the authors' parallel experiences with the film adaptations of their work (in fact, I tend to forget that Matalious hewed the way for Susann). Can't wait to read it!
      And you nailed it in noting the weird casting of Susann's films that always seem to doom them from the start. The male stars are always so dull, no wonder the women walk away with he films.

      Excellent sizing up of Kirk Douglas' ever-youthful casting (the force with which he holds his stomach in during this film's shower scene makes mine hurt). I actually saw "Saturn 3" at a theater when it came out (and it his love scenes with Fawcett are the real sci-fi of that movie). Love the Joan Crawford comparison!

      And for those unfamiliar with it, here's the SCTV take on Vaccaro's Tampon commercial
      https://youtu.be/FN64UooGiXw

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  4. PS Ken, when I read that Raffin and Vaccaro were schoolmates in this, supposedly 8 years apart...I was WTF?

    Raffin was 22 and Vaccaro 36 when they made "Once Is Not Enough!" Vaccaro's Linda must have changed her major..a lot!

    Rick

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    1. Ha! So true!
      That scene is so weird. They say they haven't seen each other in 8 or 9 years, but what 18-year-old girl (Linda) would be hanging around with a ten year old kid (January)? I don't care how unpopular she was!

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  5. I’ve seen Once is Not Enough precisely once and that was on TV in the seventies when I was a kid – so at an impressionable age! I had no inkling about the lesbian scene coming up, so it blew my freaking mind at the time! I’d kill to see this again – in UK it is completely out of circulation and unavailable on DVD. Melina Mercouri is so great, a raspy-voiced, volatile earth mother-type – Greece’s own Anna Magnani, I’d argue. I have a Greek friend and he assures me she is revered as a gay icon in Greece. James Wolcott of Vanity Fair wrote a hilarious blog about this film a few years ago. I was going to send you the link, but now when I Google for it there are no results. It must have been deleted? Damn! Also: I'm always so glad when an American references the genius of SCTV!

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    1. There's no way you're going to get away with saying you saw this movie only once when you were a kid without my countering with the obvious "Graham...once is not enough!"
      When I think back to what a kerfuffle the gay kiss in 1971's "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" caused at the time, I can understand that the lesbian kiss in this "mainstream" film was considered such a big deal.
      And the way it's set up in the film, if you managed to come to the film with no prior knowledge of the ad campaign, the kiss is a pretty good "surprise" reveal.
      I didn't watch it when it was screened on TV over here, but it wouldn't surprise me to find out that the kiss you saw as a child was cut out of the US TV edit altogether.
      I'm positive you'd get a kick out of it now. Such a 60s/70s timepiece. Not a very accurate representation of either era, but a pretty good image of how out of step with the times 60-something filmmakers werein the mid-1970s.Mercouri isn't very well served by the film, but it's nice seeing her on the screen. I can well imagine her being a gay icon.
      Too bad about the loss of the Wolcott article, it must have been a hoot. Well, hope this comes out on DVD in the UK sometime soon. Plus, it's nice to hear SCTV is still appreciated! Thanks, Graham!

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  6. Like several of the other commentators here, I enjoy this movie. I think part of the enjoyment comes from how shabby and airless the whole production is: there isn't an authentic emotion in the whole thing. I love the scene where Deborah Raffin tries to run her fingers through George Hamilton's hair and withdraws her fingers with a puzzled "Do men use hairspray now?" Also, I'm cracking up about Vickie Carr's "Let It Please Be Him" being considered a great song for a romantic moment. I'd have to say it would certainly kill the romance for me! The song was used to much better effect in MOONSTRUCK.

    One last comment: as excoriated as Vocarro was for her tampon commercial, it was really the first time the product (or the reason for the product) was acknowledged on tv. That has to count for something!

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    1. Hi Deb
      "Once is Not Enough" does seem to be one of those movies where, if you can abide it at all, you're apt to enjoy what doesn't really work about it. The film doesn't seem to stick with the novel's theme of January being a girl out-of-step with a too-fast changing world. The hairspray comment you mention is one of the few allusions made to her taking not of how things have changed since she was a girl.
      And yes, why would anyone think big, macho Tom Colt would get into a romantic mood to the overemotional strains of Vikki Carr?
      And yes, for Vaccaro's commercials...so much fun was poked at the ad's sound mixing (that seemed to amplify her inhales to alarming degree) that I can't remember anyone even going into the rarity of tampons being advertised on TV. Certainly not the way Dorothy Provine was raked over the coals for her "Feminique" feminine hygiene spray commercials in the late 60s.
      Thanks for commenting, Deb!

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  7. Hi Ken - I love the way you take this strangely dull film (which it shouldn't be) and put it in a context that makes it stimulating, fun and entertaining! Both this movie and The Love Machine could do wth the camp stylings of Misses Duke, Tate, Parkins and Hayward! That movie's a hoot, and these just aren't.

    Funny because, despite her reputation for pulp fiction, all three of these Jacqueline Susann novels are very good reads...perfect for the bathtub or the beach. I actually recommend them!

    Love your subject matter, Ken, and your ability to always engage us readers with your passion and extensive filmic repertoire!!

    - Chris

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    1. Hi Chris
      You're right when you say this film shouldn't be dull at all. I too think that Susann wrote very readable books. Ones that perhaps had to be seen for what they were when adapted to the screen (enjoyable trash) and not given the somber treatment of important literature.
      Had this been a 60s film, Hayley Mills (with her own real-life taste for older men) would have made a more fun January. And I could totally see Lana Turner as Deidre (I even think she was approached for this, but balked at kissing a woman).
      In any event, it always seems like a film like this needs strong personalities, not necessarily good actors. Still, I've never been able to put my finger on just why I find even the worst of Jackie Susann very watchable. Can't say that about Harold Robbins.
      I appreciate your comments and compliments, Chris. Thanks!

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  8. Hi Ken,

    Well I can’t help myself I have to say….That Once was most definitely Enough for me when it comes to this cinematic sludge fest!

    I saw it in the theatre on its initial release so I’m really shocked as I was reading through your recap how much I remembered of the movie. Though not David Janssen’s moon shot fortunately!

    I think that’s because it was one of the first R rated films I saw in the theatre, another one I snuck into after paying for a G rated release, and while I have some recall most of it is fuzzy. Things I recall include the ick factor of Raffin’s let’s say over fond obsession with her father, Brenda Vaccaro’s brassy and loud but fun work, I think the nomination came from her being one of the few signs of life in the film, the highly touted lesbian kiss and Alexis Smith’s class.

    Poor Alexis after toiling away all those years at Warners, giving performances I’ve always enjoyed but that for the most part were hardly earthshaking (until she went to England for The Sleeping Tiger anyway), and then having her big comeback in Follies being followed by this celluloid misfire! Well at least she followed it up with her best latter day part in The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (her last film The Age of Innocence was probably a better picture but her part was miniscule). As you said her performance in this is rather good which is wasted in this kind of trash.

    As for the rest, Raffin had that Breck girl look so popular than but she was such a bland presence it’s no wonder she was soon relegated to TV movies and the like. David Janssen is a strange case, I’ve never found him very attractive and the ground glass voice usually annoyed me no end but I usually didn’t think he did bad work though he was no great shakes in this. Other than her scenes with Alexis Smith I have no recollection of Mercouri in the film, same goes for Geo. Hamilton and Gary Conway.

    Kirk Douglas was in that period where he was still a rather major star but he had slipped into a big string of cheap junk interlaid with a gem or two (Posse and a few others) until he found his footing a bit again in the 80’s by jumping for film to TV. He could be very good but your description of him acting with his chin dimple in this is apt.

    I remember both the Janssen Excedrin and Brenda Vaccaro’s gasping and weasy tampon commercials like I saw them yesterday. Janssen’s were SO serious and to the point and we all feared for poor Brenda’s health!! That clip you linked to is bad but there was one where she just addressed the camera that was positively scarifying. It seemed as if she would drop at any second!

    As always Ken this was wonderfully entertaining. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Joel
      Yes...if you only saw this once as a kid, it's pretty good (bad?) you remember so much of it after all these years. I know that in my youth, moviegoing was still such a big deal, I usually remember the films I saw pretty well, even the ones i don't recall fondly.
      It seems like all the way through the 70s, there were old-school producers and directors (like Irwin Allen and Ross Hunter) who took it upon themselves to try to keep old Hollywood alive...believing there was still an audience for this kind of stuffy/false entertainment.
      As I said, I recall quite a few older ladies making the matinees for this, but the theater was singularly empty throughout the weeknights.
      You're right about Alexis Smith, who I enjoyed in several of her early films. What a comeback! Still, I don't think she has anything to be ashamed of, save for the actual material she had to work with.
      I think fans of Deborah Raffin claim that she was better in TV movies (with better roles) but you'd never be able to tell by me. After "The Sentinel" I pretty much avoided her when I could.
      thanks for alerting me to the broken link, it's been fixed. I really haven't seen Vacarro in many films (I think three total) but I ALWAYS associate her with these commercials.
      I liked reading what you had to say about the varous stars as you remember them. Your ability top lace them in context of their careers at the time is helpful in remembering they all hadn't been put out to pasture yet. Thanks for stopping by again Joel and adding to the discussion. Nt many can claim seeing this when it opened and still remembering it!

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    2. I've seen Deborah Raffin in a few things and she never had that punch that makes a performer stand out. She was actually pretty good in Touched by Love but even there she sort of vanished whenever Diane Lane (who to be fair had the more compelling role) was in a scene.

      That seemed to be one of her problems when she went up against a performer with more presence she receded into the background. I remember when the TV film of Brooke Hayward's memoir "Haywire" came out and was a big event. The network beat the big drum for it and Raffin was touted for her role as Brooke but when the actual film was shown (it was a two-parter!) Lee Remick and Jason Robards (as Margaret Sullavan & Leland Hayward) wiped the floor with her.

      Alexis Smith is one of those actresses, like Ava Gardner, Linda Darnell and Joan Bennett, whose extreme beauty was more a hindrance than a help for much of their careers. They were stuck in decorative roles so often that when they were handed something worthwhile and delivered it was ballyhooed and then they were quickly reconsigned to yet another glamourpuss who was gazed at and given little to do.

      Joan Bennett escaped that eventually but only when Fritz Lang discovered her adeptness at tough dames and suitability to noir. By the time it happened for Alexis with Follies the apparatus to bring her back to a feature career had broken down. She had a most respectable career but when you see her sly sophistication and comic touch in films like The Doughgirls and This Happy Feeling or her solid dramatic talent in Conflict, Sleeping Tiger or The Turning Point it's obvious that she was largely wasted.

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    3. Thanks for filling in some of the blanks regarding Raffin's later career. I can well imagine exactly what you describe, presence wise. She always seemed pleasant enough, but i thought the big screen was too big for her.
      And a good point about Alexis Smith, too (what a classy name, too. Like Claire Trevor!) those decorative roles never tapped what she seemed capable of. I'm not too familiar with her work, but I've always thought she would have been great in film noir. I have to look up some of her stuff. Ah...and Joan Bennett! She's great!

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  9. Hi Ken, I've said it before: you pick the best films to review!! The 60s and 70s were such great decades for good bad films!

    I have been lucky to see "Once is not Enough" with all those fabulous Hollywood stars acting so seriously in a melodrama while wearing the most awful clothes! The mid 70s was the worst period when it came to high fashion. Moss Mabry's clothes are dreadful! Deborah Raffin's clothes are hardly youthful. They look so strange, neither hippie nor disco fabulous. I was just a kid back then but even then I knew that clothes like that were terrible. Did girls really dress so stuffy then?

    Poor Deborah Raffin, she never evolved from starlet to star even though she looked so fresh and pretty. She tried getting lead roles in big films but she lost out to other actresses. Perhaps she was just too uninteresting? The square fashions in "Once is not Enough" certainly did not help!

    Some of the clothes are, in my opinion, so ugly it is hard to watch! This helps make the film captivating along with some of the sets. It's so true what you wrote about George Hamilton's bachelor pad. It reminds me of some of the sets from "The Adventurers" but, as you say, not sexy enough without the drugs and rock music! At one point Deborah and George are at the Coconut Club (or something). Wasn't that place popular during World War II? It really seems that the film was made by people who did not live the way young people lived in the 70s.

    I remember the film being quite tedious. I don't have the desire to see it again as I do with "Dolls" or "Love Machine", all though I did like Alexis Smith and Brenda Vaccaro. I have a soft spot for Brenda. She enlivens any film. Too bad that she made to few films! Or maybe most of the ones that she starred in are forgotten today.

    It's so cool that you worked at the theater where the film premiered and that you got to see it many times!!! Wow. Thanks for the review!
    - Wille

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    1. Hi Wille
      It's always so fascinating for me to read how the 70s look to someone who wasn't around. The clothes were indeed ugly (horrid, even), but I can tell you, I really didn't think so at the time. I was in love with bellbottoms- the bigger the flare the better, but when i saw the scene on the beach where Raffin is wearing these enormous flare-legged jeans, she looks positively silly.
      At the time, Raffin's Junior Deb wardrobe was the sort you'd find in Seventeen magazine. All those knit caps and belted jackets. I remember that my sister actually thought her clothes were cool! (in a grown-up Marsha Brady way).


      I get a kick out of Vacarro's wardrobe, which looked like it was designed for Bette Midler (all 40's puffed sleeves and floppy lounging pajamas).

      Sometimes when I look back at 70 movies (especially 70s porn and disco TV shows) I really do wonder how anyone got laid during that decade. We all looked so silly. Maybe that's where all that rampant drug use came in.

      That hideous jungle-themed nightclub Hamilton takes Raffin to I tried to look up online to see if it was a real location or a studio set. it's kind of cramped and certainly as garish as a real location during the era.

      As for Deborah Raffin, I'm not really sure what did or didn't happen with her film career, but I do recall that her looks were somewhat out of time with the era. There were so many interesting-looking actresses around, her kind of bland pretty fell by the wayside, making me wonder if she lost better roles to other blond types like Candice Bergen or Cybill Shepherd (Hollywood loves blondes, but only a few at a time).
      I don't know much about Brenda Vacarro's career, maybe she did a lot of stage? She certainly was a standout in the few things I've seen her in.
      And as for being around when this opened and working at that theater, the only cool thing about it is being old enough to remember back when two women kissing onscreen was a big to-do!
      Thanks for another very enjoyable entry to this post, Wille! Much appreciated!

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    2. Thank you Ken for enlightening me about mid 70s fashions. Now I understand that people actually wanted to have Deborah Raffin's college girl look. I love your Seventeen magazine and Brady bunch references! It's easy to forget that some people dressed primly in the 70s when most people today associate the times with the more hedonistic and sexy fashions that the night clubbing super stars of the era wore. You were out and about then and you know what it was like. That makes your reviews all the more fascinating to read!

      By the way, Guy Green, the director, also made the equally ponderous "The Magus"!
      -Wille

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    3. When I watch TV shows or movies about the 70's I suspect it's the same when my parents told me that all those shows like Happy Days got the 50s wrong (meaning not everyone went around in poodle skirts and leather jackets). I see movies that take place in the 70s and they never seem to get it quite right. They go for the most extreme fad clothes, when in reality (as you note) there were a lot of ugly ordinary clothes to go around.
      And funny you should mention The Magus. That was a movie I so wanted to see when it opened. It looked so interesting. I got to see it for the first time when I was like 40 or so and it almost put me to sleep. A whole lot of nothing. Although I do love Candice Bergen in almost anything.

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    4. I would love to read a review from you about "The Magus"! Perhaps it is too dull to watch again. I think that film has so many faults. Just hopeless!

      P.S. I always get Alexis Smith mixed up with Eleanor Parker!
      -Wille

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  10. Perhaps it's best to remember Deborah Raffin not as the pretty but rather boring actress she was in movies like this (and someone who died at the relatively young age of 59) but as the audiobooks pioneer she became during the 1990s. Every time you listen to a book, remember Raffin was one of the earliest proponents of "books on tape".

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    1. Hi Deb
      Thanks for alerting me about my spam folder...that's where I found you (for some reason). And you make a very good point. When I was Googling Raffin for this post I read all about the pioneering publishing business she and her husband created. So, yes- better to remember her for her audiobooks contribution than for her film resume. Thanks for making a very kind point!

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  11. I saw this movie about a month ago- only because I've always had a crush on Alexis Smith. For someone who's second-billed, she really doesn't appear in that much of the movie. At least she doesn't SEEM to appear that much. Her character doesn't really do anything except lay in bed and eat a deli platter with Melina Mercouri. The movie was low on trash and low on action. The only thing worse than a bad movie is a dull movie and this picture is on the same level as warm postum.

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    1. No, she doesn't have a great deal of screen time. Certainly not equal to her billing. It feels like a miscalculation to cast actresses as interesting as Alexis Smith & Melina Mercouri and spend the lions's share of the time with the not only the least-interesting character in the film (January, but the least-interesting actress (same).
      By the way, your reference to postum is an excellent example of the writer's credo - know your audience!

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  12. I was a teen-aged ShowMo when this film came out. I rushed to the mall to see it because... Alexis Smith was so fabulous in FOLLIES. At least, she was fabulous on the cast album. I had certainly never seen FOLLIES. Still, that was my reason. Nothing greater could happen in this world than to see one of the stars of FOLLIES in a new movie.

    Doomed. It was all doomed. She had nothing to do, except kiss Melina Mercouri. I despised the film because it did not revolve entirely around Alexis Smith, star of FOLLIES. Did I mention she was in FOLLIES? Oh, I was livid in that special way young people who love the theater can be livid. All I remember about the film is my disdain for it, the Great Lesbian Kiss, and David Janssen's bare ass. I don't think I'll be ordering this one (though I would watch the film again if I could see it for free.)

    Thank you for helping to remind me of how silly I was in my long-lost youth. How lucky I was to survive it.

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    1. I only knew of Alexis Smith from the "Follies" cast album when I saw this, too! I thoroughly get all that you recount so amusingly. There really are few things more solemn and serious in their earnestness than the teen-fanboy/girl.
      Smith sounded every inch the glamorous star on that album, and it was only natural to expect that she - in being cast as a character who would likely have a woman like "Follies"'s Phyllis as a friend - would be showcased in a manner fitting her Tony Award winning status.
      A waste of resources is always frustrating in a movie, and "Once" offers next to nothing in the way of camp or trash compensation.
      I hope you didn't harbor a resentment for Hollywood and the film industry for too long following your crushing disappointment.
      By the way, I never heard the term ShoMo before EVER, yet Instantly got it. Love that vivid quality about slang! Thanks, George.

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    2. It's a small film, but a favorite. I would surely enjoy reading your thoughts about CAMP.

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    3. I've never seen the entire film, but because a friend knows I'm a big Burt Bacharach fan, he sent me a link to the kids performing "Turkey Lurkey Time." It looked pretty cute.

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    4. Yes, excised from the film, that number does seem "cute." But the film is a wonderfully dark, but humorous, look at the twisted young people who worship - WORSHIP - Broadway musicals. And you know they are all nuts. Todd Graff nailed it with this insider's look at a very particular aspect of the thea-tah.

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  13. TIL: Deborah Raffin's mother was also an actress. Her name was Trudy Marshall (not a stage name) and she got her start as a cigarette model for magazines. She played the surviving sister who joins the military after her five brothers died in WWII in "The Fighting Sullivans." Semi-retired by the 1960s, she returned very infrequently to Hollywood. She appeared in the movie Once Is Not Enough (1975). Who knew? (Obviously the Google contributers.) Also, have you ever considered this "what if" mind game: how would "Once is Not Enough" turned out if it had been cast with the stars of "Dynasty" or "Dallas?"

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    1. Hi Robert
      Yes, Raffin's mother has a walk-on as the lady getting her book autographed at Tom Colt's book signing. She's dressed a little too-similarly to January's stepmother, Deidre (Moss Mabry loved hats and big fur collars). There's a link in the "Bonus materials" section that takes you to a "Once is Not Enough" post on Poseidon's Underworld and you can get a look at her.

      And your "what if" game is pretty apt in that this film really should have been, and would have played a great deal better, had it been a TV movie cast with the TV-level talents of the Dynasty/Dallas bunch. It's a great idea in that one would have no trouble finding a corresponding actor for every role - across the board. AND it would probably result in a better movie!

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  14. Never saw this (I was too young back then and I don't think I would have wanted to, even if I had been old enough,) but it was nice to be reminded of one of my first celebrity crushes, Deborah Raffin. Aside from the promotion for the movie, she seemed to be everywhere in those days-TV shows, magazine covers, advertisements-and I remember being quite taken with her. Her look was definitely more "your best friend's really pretty older sister" than timeless movie star beauty, but that was fine for the eleven-year-old me.

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    1. "Your best friend's really pretty older sister" is about the best description of Raffin's particular appeal I've ever read. Spot on!
      And you're right about her sort of being everywhere at the time. No matter what direction her career may have taken, it certainly wan't for lack of visibility and promotional push.

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  15. Hey Ken, hope you don't mind my linking an essay about Jackie Susann and her sister in sensational-sellers, Grace Metalious. "Valley of the Dolls" and "Peyton Place" have much in common! And so did the two women, though there was a few BIG differences.
    Here's my post: [url]http://ricksrealreel.blogspot.com/2016/08/jacqueline-susann-grace-metalious-women.html[/url]

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  16. Linking is not my strong point! Try this...
    http://ricksrealreel.blogspot.com/2016/08/jacqueline-susann-grace-metalious-women.html

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    1. Thanks for the working link, Rick. What a terrifically informative piece! That was an inspired idea to look at the parallel similarities/differences between the two authors. I think any fan of Jackie Susann will get a kick out of it. And what a coincidence our collective consciousnesses were focused on Susann at the same time. Thanks for sharing this with us!

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  17. Ken, I vividly recall seeing OINE. My parents had a second TV in their bedroom. I'd find reasons to go upstairs and sneak in to watch the HBO and pay channels my parents wouldn't let us watch on the family TV downstairs. When OINE was scheduled, I wasn't going to miss it. Nudity! Lesbians! Jacqueline Susan! (I haven't yet seen Valley if the Dolls yet, although I knew my mom had the book hidden in the laundry basket in the basement.). What a disappointment. The term you and your readers use is lifeless. This movie leaves you gasping for air! The first nude male I ever saw was David Jansen's backside? (And that patch of hair? Ugh! I almost cancelled puberty after that.).

    I do appreciate what my OINE experience did - it taught me how movies often pull the bait and switch on audiences, promising one thing and delivering something else. I've tried to go into a movie theatre with an open mind, and hope for the best. As we all know, even a really, really bad film can be fun. This is just a really, really unfun movie that is bad.

    I remember how heavily this film was promoted, and what a big build up Deborah Raffin was given. I think Merv Griffin had someone from the cast on every show for awhile.

    I have never been a Kirk Douglas fan. But as a teen I realized how silly he looked trying to be a hip leading man. The 70s were all about the wide sideburns and sprayed hair for the guys, and of course Douglas did it on steroids. I remember how unseemly it was when he'd talk about this "sexy" movie in his sansabelt pants and leisure suit jackets. I felt sorry for Deborah Raffin then. I feel sad for Kirk now. Among the male actors of his generation, I think he had the hardest time making the adjustment from leading man to character actor. Burt Lancaster, William Ho!den and others seemed to move on a bit sooner and with a bit more self awareness and grace.

    I saw this movie a couple of times after my furtive viewing in my parent's bedroom. It has not held up. I guess it seemed dated even then! The good news is, I gave Jacqueline Susan a second chance and saw The Valley of the Dolls a few years later. Now that's a movie worth sneaking into mom and dad's bedroom to watch!

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    1. Hello Roberta
      The most vivid segment of your comment is the copy of "Valley of the Dolls" your mom hid in the laundry basket! I love that. I think many of us can recall some popular "scandalous" book our parents unsuccessfully tried to keep out of our hands (Myra Breckinridge was mine).
      You're so right in reiterating that Once Is Not Enough's biggest offense is in being so dry and so little fun. Seems such a silly notion to write absolute sleaze and then convince yourself you've created great literature. Popularity is notorious for convincing artists that they are "good" when they are merely liked.
      And what was it with David Janssen and nude scenes? back in 1969 I remember Rona Barrett's magazine was full of the inside poop on Janssen's nude scenes in the film "Where It's At" and how he was carrying on with co-star Rosemary Forsythe. I only saw the film recently on TCM, but sure as shootin, Janssen has a protracted nude massage scene. Maybe he was considered to be sexier than I give him credit for.

      I wish I remembered the Merv Griffin episodes. I would have loved to have heard how the cast tried to positively spin this rather average film. The movie pulls so many of its punches, shock-wise, did they really think it would do well on the strength of that "bait and switch" you refer to. Certainly they had to know disappointed word-of-mouth would spread.
      Kirk Douglas never did much for me, either, save for provide me with an absolutely terrible impersonation I'd annoy my sisters with (in truth, more an impersonation of Frank Gorshin impersonating Kirk Douglas).
      I'm glad this film didn't turn you off of Jackie Susann films (The Love Machine is a bit on the dull side too, but at least it has Dyan Cannon) and that your eventual discovery of "Dolls" may have helped blot out the image of Janssen's backside and that hair patch.
      Thanks, Roberta! Nice of you to stop by during your vacation!

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  18. Janssen's nude scene in "Where It's At" was a father and son naked massage, no less. A lot of effort was put into pushing the envelope in the late '60's.

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  19. Yes, and that's usually one of my favorite things about 60s/70s films; David Janssen in the buff, not so much. At least "son" Robert Drivas helped me avert my eyes.

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  20. Thanks Ken, another wonderful defense/take down of another good/bad movie! (And I love your Dionne Warwick catch!) Your essay is hands down more entertaining than the film, but then the movie doesn't set the bar very high, does it?

    I think I may be able to solve the "What is Gary Conway's character doing in this film?" mystery (or rather, what's he doing in the book -- he could easily have been jettisoned from the film). According to a Susann bio I read (forgive me, I don't recall which one), Jackie's original manuscript ended with January being swept up in a spacecraft and taken to another planet! (Can you imagine being the junior editor tasked with talking her out of that one?)

    Apparently, it then pretty much segued into a rehash of the plot of the (at the time) unpublished "Yargo." Given how inert the proceedings are, I can only imagine that that ending it might have helped the movie!

    (And this is completely off topic, but I consistently have TWO words for you -- "...and they ain't 'Merry Christmas,'" as the saying goes: ASH WEDNESDAY!!!)

    ~Jeff

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    1. Hey Jeff
      That's an excellent point you make about the inclusion of the astronaut character! I'd read on Wikipedia about the original ending and Yargo and all that (Goodness, what WAS she thinking?), but sort of put it out of my mind. But I think you're onto something. At least making it appear that there was a method to her madness in including a character who comes off as wholly superfluous. I've never read Yargo...I love Susann, but
      the whole premise held no interest for me.
      Thanks a heap for providing a tie in for Jackie's spacey preoccupations.
      Oh, and on your recommendation, I finally got my hand on a copy of "Ash Wednesday"! Haven't watched it yet, but looking forward to it. And if it proves to be a good/bad film (like I hope) your mentioning it is not off-topic at all!

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    2. Hope you got hold of a decent Ash Wednesday transfer -- a widescreen, remastered BluRay is likely never gonna happen! But I can attest that, having seen it 4 or 5 nights in a row in a movie house, it was some LUSH scenery (Liz AND Italy). The credit sequence alone, accompanied by that haunting theme by Maurice Jarre, is worth the price.

      Oh damn, now I gotta go watch it...

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    3. Ken, Jeff is right - ASH WEDNESDAY!!!! It was my introduction to La Liz's "later" work. Thanks, Jeff, for suggesting it!

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    4. Wow! How did I remain out of the loop so long on this movie. So many people keep recommending it to me. The transfer I have is good, not super sharp or anythihng, but it has that look typical of VHS.
      Soon as things slow down for me I''m going to watch it.
      Thanks Neely! thanks Roberta!

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  21. Sounds like you got the standard copy that's available -- a perfectly serviceable, cropped VHS transfer, but context is important with AW. It was something of a dramatic turnaround from the increasingly zaftig Taylor of Hammersmith, Divorce His/Divorce Hers, etc... with Taylor reportedly dropping 40 pounds to play it. In fact, "Hello Liz, Welcome Back To Show Biz!" was the title of Rex Reed's review, in which he observed, "It's the kind of movie Ross Hunter would give his gold plated bathroom to have produced, and I hope it makes a zillion dollars!"

    For a sense of what it looked like, catch the YouTube clip of the German dubbed widescreen transfer; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF5hjm71iQE

    Forgive my going off topic here, I'm obviously passionate about the movie but I don't wanna oversell it! And I confess that touting you onto it is a purely selfish gesture -- I can't wait to read your take on it! (And thanks Roberta for backing me up!)

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