She was everywhere and did everything, but genuine stardom always managed to elude her. Indeed, if stardom could be bought, she whould have been; but public consensus was that she was little more than competent as a performer, and as an actress she was (per the New York Times) “spectacularly inept.”
|Hey, Looka Me! I'm A Writer!|
|Pia Zadora as Jerilee Randall|
|Lloyd Bochner as Walter Thornton|
|Anthony Holland as Guy Jackson|
|Bibi Besch as Veronica Randall|
|Jared Martin as George Ballantine|
|Joseph Cali as Vincent "Vinnie" Dacosta|
A member of that rarefied, they-don’t-make-‘em-like-this-anymore club of tantalizing cinema trash reserved for such gems as Valley of the Dolls, The Oscar, The Other Side of Midnight, and Showgirls; The Lonely Lady is a film to be cherished. For in everything from content to execution, it exhibits that one essential quality shared by all craptastic classics—a surfeit of ambition, pretension, and ego supported by a scarcity of talent, budget, and good taste.
|When The Lonely Lady was released in September of 1983, |
Pia Zadora felt the burn of unanimous critical censure
Jerilee is inserted into your garden-variety showbiz cautionary tale depicting Hollywood as a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog business which exploits the talented and corrupts the innocent. The Lonely Lady’s ostensibly feminist angle (don’t you believe it) is that Jerilee, unlike the victimized heroines of Jacqueline Susann novels, has no interest in being an actress, model, or singer; she has brains and ambition and only wants to succeed behind the scenes as a screenwriter. But true to the genre, Jerilee just also happens to be sexually irresistible to all she meets, male and female, so sexism, misogyny, and her overall hotness prove to be major hurdles to overcome on her path toward being taken seriously as a writer.
|Vinnie Goes for the Big Pocket Shot|
By the time The Lonely Lady limped to movie screens, public tastes and mores had changed significantly in regard to these Harold Robbins/Jacqueline Susann/Sidney Sheldon-style sex-power-glamour sleaze and cheesefests. Nighttime television—in the form of soaps (Dallas and Dynasty) and the miniseries (The Thorn Birds, Winds of War and Princess Daisy in 1983 alone)—had completely co-opted the no-longer-shocking genre. The boom in the availability of vhs and cable porn rendering Zadora’s frequent nude scenes and so-called steamy couplings quaint, if not downright passé.
|Let's Have Lunch...& Dinner...& Brunch...|
Ingenuity not being one the film's strong suits, The Lonely Lady
stages no less than five scenes in restaurants
These are supposed to be the covers of Jerilee's published books.
Who the hell was her publisher, Fisher-Price?
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS MOVIE
|A scene from Homeland, the laughably awful-looking film-within-a-film for which Jerilee contributes|
this single line of dialogue. Magically transforming a B-movie into an Oscar contender
|Let's Make A Deal|
Current headlines reveal that after all these years not much has changed in terms of systemic sexism in the film industry. Too bad The Lonely Lady merely treats the issue as fodder for sensationalism
|It could be said Ms. Zadora dedicated her career to|
making sure no one would ever refer to her by that name
There's no getting around it. Pia Zadora's performance here most definitely calls into question the credibility of her Golden Globe win, while emphatically cementing the validity of her multiple Golden Raspberry Award wins (although she lost 2000s Worst Actress of the Decade to Madonna).
In truth, Zadora is so unconvincing and inexpressive in the film, it's pushing it to call hers a performance at all. But on the plus side, it's not one of those pitiably bad performances that makes you feel bad or embarrassed for an actor. In the tradition of Patty Duke and Elizabeth Berkeley, Pia Zadora's awfulness is so robust and zestfully devoid of anything resembling technique or skill, it achieves a kind of guileless purity.
THE STUFF OF FANTASY
If The Lonely Lady works on any other level than simply high-octane camp, I'd say it works best (as he places tongue firmly in cheek) as a disquietingly self-referential exposé. The construct of the entire film places the viewer in the position of scrutinizing the Pia Zadora phenomenon through the guise of meta-fiction.
On top of this, the movie keeps throwing Zadora's real-life circumstances into the mix. Like Zadora, Jerilee just can't get no respect. She marries a wealthy man old enough to be her father who proves instrumental in getting her into show business. A place where her success is never believed to have been rightfully earned. By the time the film finishes on the confrontational note highlighted in this screencap, I thought to myself, "Pia's playin' head games with us!"
THE STUFF OF DREAMS
|Carla Romanelli plays a Sophia Loren-type Italian actress (complete with Carlo Ponti-esque husband) who, like everyone else in the film, finds Jerilee impossible to resist. I never realized screenwriters were so sought-after|
After abandoning acting and the whole sex symbol hype (and Meshulam Riklis after 16 years) Zadora pursued what was always her strongest suit, singing, and, in a few cameo roles, revealed herself to be a natural light comedienne. She's been active and good-natured in promoting the DVD release of The Lonely Lady (which includes a spirited interview) and harbors no illusions about either the film's quality or her performance in it. She's so cool with the film's renewed cult status and everybody hailing it as one of the best of the worst, it's as though she's given us all her blessing to enjoy a great guilt-free laugh with her, not at her.
Back in 1976, Variety announced that Susan Blakely (The Towering Inferno) was slated to star in The Lonely Lady.
|Pia Zadora's 1983 semi-hit pop song (it charted #49) is played twice in the film|
In music video she seems to be channeling the Landers sisters HERE
As per the Evita lyric—"My story’s quite usual: local girl makes good weds famous man”
Pia Zadora's story is nothing new. From William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies to Bo and John Derek; stardom by benefactor is as old as show business itself.
One of the more amusing examples is the forgotten Dora Hall, wife of Solo Cups magnate Leo Hulseman who funded his wife's late-in-life career to the tune of giveaway albums and TV specials in the 1970s.
|Listen to Dora Hall sing "Floozy Little Suzy Brown"|