BetteBack January 26, 2000: Bette Midler stars in `Isn’t She Great’

Chicago Defender
January 26, 2000

ISN'T SHE GREAT, Bette Midler, 2000, (c)MCA
ISN’T SHE GREAT, Bette Midler, 2000, (c)MCA

Bette Midler stars in `Isn’t She Great

From the very beginning, best-selling novelist Jacqueline Susann (Bette Midler) just wanted her place in the spotlight. With no agent and no one calling for auditions, she scraped by with residuals from the occasional radio jingle, television commercial and game show appearance.

Still, with every failure — and there were plenty –she remained undeterred in her guest for fame. A friend once told her that “talent wasn’t everything,” and for no person was this more true.

Manager and publicist Irving Mansfield (Nathan Lane) knew he was the one who could make Jackie’s dreams come true. He also knew that he was in love with the flamboyant actress. It was a relationship made in show business heaven.

So it goes in Universal’s movie currently being released in area theaters and nationally starring Midler as Susann. Co-starring is Nathan Lane. The supporting cast consists of Stockard Channing, David Hyde Pierce, Amanda Peet and John Cleese.

Executive producers are Ted Kiurdyla, Gary Levinsohn, Mark Gordon and is passed on an article by Michael Korada. The screenplay is by Paul Rudnick. Andrew Bergman directs “Isn’t She Great.”

With Jackie’s career going nowhere and fast, Irving hits upon an idea. A crazy idea, but an idea which just might make Jacqueline Susann a household name. She would write a book. Never mind the fact that she had never written before. She would write about what she knew: the crazy, steamy lives of drug-addicted, sex-craved movie stars.

With her best friend Florence (Channing) by her side for inspiration and Irving at her side for advice, encouragement and deliveries of hot pastrami, Jackie put pen to paper, with a passion that was all-consuming and a vocabulary that would shock a sailor.

The result was “Valley of the Dolls,” an inside look at the high’s and low’s of show biz as told by someone who had experienced it firsthand. According to Irving, it was “like `Gone With the Wind,’ only filthy.”

Finding a publisher was an entirely new challenge however, for Jackie had tackled a subject matter considered entirely too taboo for her time.

Eventually, she landed a deal with the suave and debonair publisher Henry Marcus (Cleese), whose keen sense told him that with a little help, she just might become the greatest storyteller of her generation.

But first she would have to do some heavy convincing, for her ultra-WASP-y editor Michael Hastings (Hyde Pierce) felt her book was “salacious, perverted, soft-core port” and unfit to print. Jackie’s eagerness to learn — and a charm that was all her own — eventually won him over and the book was published.

Susann had invented a whole new way of writing books and once she and Irving hit the road, the publishing world would never be the same. Embarking on a book tour from coast to coast, paying calls on regional booksellers and impressing “mom and pop”-type shops with her intimate knowledge of all their personal lives, Irving saw to it that everyone was clamoring to read “Valley of the Dolls.”

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