Valley of the Dolls describes events taking place between about 1945 and 1965. and was published in 1966. How did the characters think about marriage?
On dating in New York City:
Anne smiled. “Lawrenceville. It’s at the start of the Cape, about an hour from Boston by train. And if I had wanted a husband I could have stayed right there. In Lawrenceville everyone gets married as soon as they get out of school. I’d like to work for a while first.” “And you left such a place? Here everyone is looking for a husband. Including me! Maybe you could send me to this Lawrenceville with a letter of introduction.” “You mean you’d marry just anyone?” Anne was curious. “Not anyone. Just anyone who’d give me a nice beaver coat, a part-time maid, and let me sleep till noon each day. The fellows I know not only expect me to keep my job, but at the same time I should look like Carole Landis in a negligee while I whip up a few gourmet dishes.” When Anne laughed the girl said, “All right, you’ll see. Wait till you get involved with some of the Romeos in this town. I bet you rush for the fastest train back to Lawrenceville. And on the way, don’t forget to stop by and take me with you.”
New England perspective on the basis of marriage:
“Anne, you are raising your voice,” her mother said calmly. “Willie Henderson is a fine boy. I went to school with his daddy and his mother.” “But I don’t love him, Mama.” “No man can be loved.” This from Aunt Amy. “But Mama, didn’t you ever really love Daddy? I mean, when a man you love takes you in his arms and kisses you, it should be wonderful, shouldn’t it? Wasn’t it ever wonderful with Daddy?” “Anne! How dare you ask your mother such a thing!” said Aunt Amy. “Unfortunately, kissing isn’t all a man expects after marriage,” her mother said stiffly.
“I don’t love Willie Henderson, Mama!” “There is no such thing as love, the way you talk about it. You’ll only find that kind of love in cheap movies and novels. Love is companionship, having friends in common, the same interests. Sex is the connotation you’re placing on love, and let me tell you, young lady, that if and when it does exist, it dies very quickly after marriage — or as soon as the girl learns what it’s all about.
Were women back then attracted to the rich real estate developer son of a rich New York City real estate developer?
Of course, his father, Gino, started the empire. They own half the real estate in this town. They’re rumored to be partners with those millionaire Greek shipping tycoons. Time magazine did a piece on Gino a few years ago. Maybe I can dig up a back copy in the library for you. They said his wealth couldn’t even be estimated. They ran Allen’s picture, too. Sole heir to the entire empire. You can imagine what an ad this was for the pair of them. Ever since, they’ve needed elephant guns to keep the girls away. … “Oh, he’s smoother than glass — but I think he’s as tough as his father underneath. He’s put over some pretty shrewd deals on his own. Managed to stay out of the Army by buying some plant that made parachutes, I believe.”
Was money a sensible basis for marriage? Here’s a 17-year-old’s perspective:
“Anne! You’ve made it!” “But Neely — I don’t love Allen!” “With all that money it will be easy to learn,” Neely insisted. “But I don’t want to get married, or give up my job. I’m on my own for the first time, and I’m not ready to give it up. I’ve only had two months of freedom —” “Freedom! You call this freedom?” Neely shrieked. “Living in a hall bedroom, getting up at seven and rushing to the office, eating lunch at the drugstore, maybe tagging along to ‘21’ once in a while with Bellamy and some client and freezing in that black silk coat? You want to stay free for this kind of gloriousness? Tomorrow is November first. Wait until January and February. Boy, it’s gorgeous in New York in February! Nothing but black slush. And that one little stinking radiator in your room is gonna seem like a matchstick. What are you giving up? Just tell me!”
“But it’s happened!” Neely hollered. “Only you hit the jackpot right away. Are you angry because you didn’t have to slave away for years, wear six-dollar shoes and bargain-basement clothes? Anne, if you blow this it won’t happen again. Do you think when you’re bored playing secretary another millionaire will suddenly appear on the scene and say, ‘Okay, Anne, time to get married’? Ha!” “I’m not especially looking for someone rich. That’s not important.” Neely sneered. “You’ve never been poor.” “Neely . . . let me put it this way. You’re thrilled because you’ve landed Hit the Sky. Suppose after a few weeks of rehearsal someone like Allen came into your life and asked you to marry him and chuck the show before it even opened. Would you?” “Would I? But so fast it’d make your head spin. Look, let’s say I have real talent. And let’s say someday I get a chance to prove it. If I work real hard for years, what will I wind up with? Money, position and respect. That’s it. That’s all there is. And it could take me years of hard work to get that. Allen is handing you the works on a silver platter.” Anne couldn’t believe her ears. Neely with the scrubbed face, looking younger than her seventeen years, pinning everything down so cynically.
What says the ancient-by-the-standards-of-the-novel boss (he’s early 50s)?
“Henry, I told Allen I didn’t love him. I told his father the same thing.” “You told them that?” He sounded incredulous. “Yes. Both of them.” “And what did they say?” “That’s what’s so unbelievable. I’ve never known people like them. They seem to ignore anything they don’t want to hear. Allen keeps saying he loves me — and that I’ll learn to love him.” “That can happen,” Henry said quietly. “Sometimes it’s the best kind of love. Being loved.”
A mother’s advice to her 25-year-old daughter:
“Look, you’re lucky — you have a gorgeous face and the kind of body men go for . . . though your kind of figure doesn’t last. … All right. Are you watching your weight?”
“I’m very thin, Mother. . . .”
“I know, but don’t gain and lose. That’s the worst thing for your breasts. Big breasts like yours are going to drop soon enough, and then they’ll be an eyesore. Make them pay while you have them. Men are animals — they seem to like them.”
What is the actual experience of marriage?
Helen’s eyes widened. “You read those books? Know something? I never read a book in my life.” “Now you’re teasing me,” Anne insisted. “Nope. When I work in a show, I work hard. After the show, if I’m lucky I have a date. If not, I come home from the show alone. And by the time I take a bath and read the trade papers and the columns, I’m ready to pop off. I sleep till noon, read the afternoon papers, go through my mail, get on the horn with my friends . . . by that time I’m ready for dinner. I never go out for dinner when I’m doing a show and I never have a drink till after the show. But after the show I like to hoot. Oh, yeah . . . I almost read a book during my last marriage. That’s when I knew it was going sour. …”
More: Read Valley of the Dolls