Bette Midler and Nathan Lane lead a Jacqueline Susann renaissance

Filmmakers have switched from adapting the highbrow works of Jane Austen and Henry James to championing a less weighty literary star: Jacqueline Susann, writer of the best-selling 1966 camp classic ”Valley of the Dolls.” Fox is planning a remake of the ’67 film version, to be produced and possibly directed by Betty Thomas (who made retro funny with “The Brady Bunch Movie”). And Rhino Films is producing ”Return to the Valley of the Dolls,” a film based on an unpublished Susann sequel. This comes on the heels of a reissue of the out-of-print ”Valley,” which has sold 50,000 copies.

”The Jackie vortex has been coming for a long time,” says Lisa Bishop, who handles all of the rights to the writer’s works. ”The generation that read ‘Valley’ under the covers as a kid — when it first came out and was taboo — has grown up. Now they’re in a position to buy the book and make a deal for a movie.”

Susann’s personal life is also attracting cinematic attention: Michele Lee will play the writer, who died in 1974, in a USA made-for-cable movie; and Bette Midler stars as Susann in the Paul Rudnick-scripted ”Isn’t She Great,” based on a 1995 New Yorker article by Michael Korda about his experiences as her editor. Nathan Lane will play Susann’s husband, Irving Mansfield.

Susann, a tireless self-promoter, was one of the first authors to court celebrity, leading the way for such later writers as Jackie Collins, says David Trinidad, a teacher at Rutgers University who recently archived Susann’s work: ”People are interested in Susann now because we live in such a fame-obsessed society, and she was an expert on the subject.”

Valley of the Dolls
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