tremble clef

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Eileen Wilson (for Susan Hayward, playing Helen Lawson), "I'll Plant My Own Tree" (1967)

O glorious day: at long last the DVD of The Greatest Movie Ever Made is released in North America today. A movie that made me the man I am today: namely, someone who knows, mother, to do his bust exercises every day, and always holds on tight to his wig when in the powder room. I can only be talking, of course, about Valley Of The Dolls.

It seems like only yesterday, as opposed to at least ten years ago, when I was scurrying around the video stores of Washington DC searching for a VHS copy of the film to present as a gift to the best friend who first introduced me to the movie. At one branch of Capitol Video they only had a copy to rent, but the clerk offered to call their other store, where, lo and behold, they did have one to sell. When I made it into that store, I barely got my "I think you have a video on hold --" sentence out before the man behind the counter, other customers and security cameras be damned, shrieked, "I'M NEEEELY O'HAAARRRAAAAA!!!" I was so excited, Jen, I couldn't feel my legs.

What's so great about this movie? Hello, what's not great about it? A tale of three young ingenues who go to Hollywood and tragically descend into drugs, nervous breakdowns, and unflattering special effects montages, Valley Of The Dolls, as another good friend believed, holds all the answers to life. Such as:

1. Sanitariums (which are emphatically not nuthouses) are very expensive.

2. You can always do the second act before the first.

3. Little whores make you feel nine feet tall.

4. Never swallow one pill -- or, for that mater, an M&M -- calmly when you could grab a handful and violently shove them into your mouth like you're discovering your orifices for the first time.

5. In the final reckoning, just let them droop.

That so many of these life lessons are contained in song is only the icing on the cake. When Tony Scotti's Tony sings "Come Live With Me," it's touching enough the first time, when he is onstage mouthing it "flirtatously" to Sharon Tate's Jennifer in the audience, her eyes darting about nervously, coyly, and incompetently until she realizes that the boyfriend by her side in the club is oblivious to the shenanigans anyway, what with being a million years old and in a waking coma. But when poor Tony reprises the song later in the film -- oh. My. God. Neely, in the sanitarium to dry out, gets the piano player (present at every recreation hour in sanitariums across America, apparently) to play Tony's hit, and the strains awakens some memory in a slumbering man with a degenerative disease in a wheelchair. Look, it's Tony! What a convenient coincidence! He pipes up, joins Neely in a verse, and then drifts off again and is wheeled off for the rest of his lobotomy. How can anyone not be in tears by this point, I don't know.

And then there is the showstopping "I'll Plant My Own Tree," as lovingly rendered, complete with awkward shoulder thrusts and bizarre vocal emphases, by Susan Hayward's Helen "The Only Hit" Lawson on stage while, as many other wags have noticed, trying to avoid being decapitated by a random giant mobile.

"I'll PLANT! My own tree. And I'll MAKE! IT! GROW! My TREE! Will not be! Just ONE in A ROW!" Yes! Her tree really really really wanna zigazig ha.

"My tree will offer shade, when strangers go by! If you're a stranger, brother, well so am I." A deep existential dilemma, this. Her tree is there to offer shade to strangers; it's a friendly, welcoming, non-discriminating tree. But -- ah, who is the stranger, really? Maybe we are all strangers to ourselves. (Spoooooky music.)

"Come tomorrow all that I see is my tree, oh, Lord, what a sight! Let someone stop me and I will put up a fight!" It's a day later, and the tree has been snacking on some serious Miracle Growth. It's completely taken over her ocular world. So let someone stop me...from what? From seeing the tree? If someone is trying to gouge out her eyes, you can believe Helen Lawson ain't gonna stand for that. As well she shouldn't.

"It's MY YARD! So I will TRY HARD! To welcome friends I have yet to know!" Ever the constant gardener of hospitality, Helen teaches us to take pride in our flowers and weeds. This should be adopted as the manifesto for the National Gardening Association. Or maybe an advertising jingle. It's MY TOOL! And I am NO FOOL! It's MY PLOW! And boy do I KNOW HOW! It's MY RAKE! And it's not HALF-BAKED! It's MY HOE! So STEP OFF, YO!

"Oh, I'll plant my own tree, my own tree, and I'll! Make! It! GROW!!" Now get out of my way, I've got a man waiting for me, etc..


  • Is this post actually product placement for the new Pipettes video?


    hope you enjoyed Delaware. Maybe you stumbled ("oh golly! woops!") onto the nude beach!

    By Blogger xolondon, at 8:29 AM  

  • You know I love the Pipettes and the new video, but they would have gotten so many more points with me if they had paid tribute, not to Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, but to the way superior original.

    I did stumble onto a nude bitch, but that's a story for another day.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 10:09 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home