Hollywood Wives (1985)

Do not miss a chance to watch “Hollywood Wives.”  I’m warning you now.  A riot from beginning to end, this is pure 1980s Americana, Reagan years excess, schlock to end all schlock. 

Perhaps because it was her first book turned into a miniseries, but I can’t think of any reason this one is not called “Jackie Collins’ Hollywood Wives.”  It really should be, because it would alert us immediately that we are about to jump into Ms. Collins’ unique world of camp trash.  I’ll take Jackie’s books over those of Danielle Steel or Judith Krantz any day (I’ll take a book in Swahili about waiting for a rock to move over Judith Krantz) because Jackie Collins knows exactly what she’s writing, never pretending it’s anything but exactly what it is.

Jackie had the exquisite bad taste (I mean that in the best way, Jackie), to turn to Aaron Spelling to produce “Hollywood Wives.”  Having given her sister’s career a lift in the 1980s, Spelling was as smart as Jackie Collins, always aware of just what he was giving his vast audiences.  Not subtle or artistic, he wanted ratings the old-fashioned way: sex and sin.  With two intelligent smut experts at the wheel, it’s no wonder “Hollywood Wives” was such a success, but not for the same reasons as, oh, say, “Roots” or “North and South.”

The combination of these two makes “Hollywood Wives” easily one of the most outrageously hysterical hootfests in the miniseries cannon.  Try making it though any scene without exploding in laughter.  “Lace” will forever be the campiest miniseries, but “Hollywood Wives” is more expansive and more ridiculous, it’s just that the plot of “Lace” is unmatched in sheer lunacy while “Hollywood Wives” derives its hokey brilliance from every beloved cliche expected.

The fun starts with just the credits, a montage of Hollywood excess (shopping, spas, jewels, furs, perfume, and lots of Rodeo Drive) and an actual theme song, croaked out in grand 80s pop fashion with such delicious lyrics like “it’s not like the movies out there on the street.”  It’s a long song because this is a once-in-a-lifetime cast of vets, wanna-bes, never-quite-got-theres and actual stars, enough for about 13 verses of the song.

Where else should the movie start but on a red carpet?  Mary Hart, playing herself, of course, is handling interviewing duties.  First to arrive is that glamorous platinum plaything Suzanne Somers, as the “most beautiful sensuous sexy symbol in United States today,” who has a role in the new movie “Tigress” where, and I hope you are ready for this laugh, she plays “an anthropologist who gets captured by a gang of pygmies.”  Only a minute into the movie!  I am in heaven. 

Starting the laughs at the banquet is emcee studio head Rod Steiger, who cracks bad jokes and announces a new film, must to the chagrin of Stefanie Powers and her director hubby Anthony Hopkins (did you ever think you would see those three names in the same sentence?) who were promised the film would not be announced.  Getting the honorary award for money raised is Robert Stack, wearing the third of the horrible toupees of the male cast members (and we’ve only met three).  Wooden as ever, he accepts the award while seeming bored at the same time.

When it’s time for dinner and dancing, tough-as-nails agent Angie Dickinson makes a bee-line to Robert, who thanks her for actually giving money to the wing at the old actors home charity being supported that night, but that’s a secret, because it wouldn’t do for her image if people knew. 

Two of the titular wives are seated together.  Joanna Cassidy, in a stunning off-the-shoulder Nolan Miller creation, whines that when Anthony Hopkins was married to her, they never danced like he’s dancing with current wife Stefanie.  Her pal Candice Bergen, in her biggest hair ever, sarcastically tells her, “don’t think of it as dancing.  Think of it as a script conference.”  In another part of the room, Robert and wife Frances Bergen (yup, Candy’s mom) are trying to wrangle his slutty daughter Mary Crosby from telling lewd jokes and making nasty comments about them. 

Not at the party is a Charles Manson look-a-like trashing his house as his parents try to calm him down.  As they discuss locking him away again or giving him meds, we find out that he’s upset because he’s found a document saying they are not his real parents.  Nearly strangling his mother, he asks who his real mother is.  “We only know she’s someone in Hollywood,” she says.  Well, if it’s a woman we’re looking for, of the cast members we’ve met so far, only one  or two stand any chance of being biologically old enough.  He kills his adopted father with a letter opener (not even 15 minutes into the movie–I’m beyond heaven!). 

Back at the party, 80s soap heartthrob Andrews Stevens is a waiter and former gigolo because he’s still trying to break into the biz.  A smarmy dowager tells him he shouldn’t be doing part time work, hinting that returning to the life would be a much better cash cow for him, like one of his old friends who is there scoping out Joanna.  As for Joanna, she is still pining for Anthony, who is being hit up for a part in his new movie by Suzanne, much to Stefanie’s dry amusement.  Candy takes a moment to call her hubby, Steve Forrest, who is in Italy making a cheap picture in a Roman costume.  He’s tired of these types of parts.  Oh, but Steve, your legs look to sexy!  He’s got a young make-up girl he can flirt with while on the other side of the ocean, Candice has to pretend to Joanna that all is well with their marriage.  Stefanie wants to leave the party for a “chili cheeseburger,” and Anthony agrees, but they don’t get out cleanly.  First, Mary caustically congratulates Stefanie for being a woman screenwriter, saying about a new script, “it doesn’t matter if you wrote it or not, as long as they think you wrote it,” and then lecherous Rod wants a word before dragging a columnist off to get an introduction to Linda Evans (who, thankfully, does not make an appearance). 

Also not at the party is Andrew’s curvy new wife, Catherine Mary Stewart, who is accosted in a supermarket parking lot by a creep who actually says, “you ought to be in movies” before grabbing at her.  Luckily, a supermarket employee saw the guy follow Catherine out and has called a security guard to help.  “Don’t let appearances fool you,” the bag boy says, “day or night, Hollywood can be a dangerous place.”  Okay, that line is downright hysterical because it’s in the wrong place, a supermarket parking lot where a woman has just been assaulted.  Shouldn’t an ironic zinger like that be saved for one of the wits at the party?  Honestly, who needs drugs to get high when writing like this exists?  I’m over the moon!

The guy who killed his parents decides to hitch his way to Hollywood, meeting a talkative truck driver who says that he’s ferried a lot of people that way, and nothing ever became of any of them.  “I’m different.  They are never going to forget me in Hollywood.  Never,” the scary man says.

Oh, it gets better and better!  A hunky pool guy straight out of a gay porn script sizes up Candice and says, “the manager told me you need service twice a week.”  “The POOL needs service twice a week,” she replies icily.  Undaunted, he offers her swimming lessons, something he does for lots of rich women.  Who?  He can’t say, “professional confidentiality.”  He claims swimming is easy, “you just have to hold your breath.”  “Well, don’t hold yours,” Candice retorts.  ZING!  Having made it through crap like “The Adventurers” over the years has given her the ability to nail the lines with her wonderful deadpan. 

One of Andrew’s old hooker buddies has given him his house while he’s away, but Catherine pouts because she doesn’t get to spend any time with him.  He reminds her that he’s doing this for her too.  “One of these days, you are going to see me up there on the screen, or doing Shakespeare…” Wait, Shakespeare?  What did he do to deserve being mentioned here?  Couldn’t they have gone with Neil Simon or Sid Kroft or someone far more believable?  Well, they are our tender young lovers, so they get the twinkly music while all of the hot shots are out for blood.  But, that doesn’t mean the babes can’t still lust after him.  A bimbo at the pool in a bikini says, “you’re married?  What a waste!”

Angie and Suzanne are having a spa day and Suzanne wants better parts.  Angie claims there’s nothing wrong with being a sexy symbol, but Suzanne wants to be Jane Fonda.  She wants into the big “Final Reunion,” Anthony big new picture.  “Isn’t being a star enough for you?” Angie asks.  “Not anymore!” Suzanne insists. 

Our three leads go out shopping at Neiman-Marcus, where Candice tries on an insane leather outfit with a father coat and fur hat.  Mary and Joanna are worried that she’s been without her husband too long.  Mary doesn’t believe that Steve is pining for Candice the way she thinks.  “He’s not a liar!” Candy insists.  “No, but he is an actor,” Joanna adds, “and they are used to be catered to all their lives…meaning that actors are children and it doesn’t matter who provides the toys.  They are certainly going to play with them and I just imagine he’s having a fabulous time on location.”  In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t write a line like that.  From now on, I will refer to her as The Great Unbeatable Jackie Collins for doing so.  “I’m a happily married woman.  We don’t play around,” Candice insists as we cut to Steve in bed with his make-up girl.  He rather harshly pushes her out the door so he can learn his lines, but in reality it’s so he can study himself in a mirror and worry about his age. 

Everyone wants a part of “Final Reunion.”  Mary suggests to Candice that Steve would be perfect for a part “if he plays he age” and Joanna thinks he should get Angie as an agent because she can get him the part.  Even more, don’t wait for Steve to do it, go do it yourself.  “After all, what are Hollywood wives for?” Joanna reminds Candice. 

Just to catch you up on the murderous stranger on his way to Los Angeles, he’s now in Indiana in the car of a reverend who is excited that he’s going to be part of a family reunion.  “Yeah, I’m gonna take care of my whoooooole family,” the stranger tells the preacher.  A few scenes later, he kills the reverend, steals his money and car.

Candice tarts herself up in sexy lingerie and furry heels to welcome Steve home from Italy.  Romantic that he is, he chirps “hi, babe” when she opens the door.  Question: why do they have no servants to open the door?  Question: why does Steve ring the doorbell?  Instead of the much-expected sex, Candice has to unpack Steve’s bag as he sets up meetings on the phone. 

After pounding the pavement trying to get a job, Andrew runs into Roddy McDowell, his former pimp.  “You were the best stud in my stable.  Any time you want…” Roddy tells him, looking him over like a piece of, well, this is Roddy McDowell, so he’s gone right to mentally undressing him.  Andrew refuses to get back into that line of work.  But, he does take Roddy’s card, just in case.  Roddy McDowell as a Hollywood high-end pimp?  C’mon, people, this is too much.  I can’t stop laughing!

The story moves to Palm Beach.  You see, without Robert Stack, apparently the biggest movie star in the world (the biggest movie star in the world is 110 years old?), “Family Reunion” may not get made, so Rod sends Anthony to Palm Beach to woo him, but Stefanie has to stay in Hollywood and finish rewriting the script.  When he checks into his hotel room, Suzanne is draped across his bed in a towel.  Anthony isn’t the least bit interested, but Suzanne asks, “how do I go about seducing [you]?”  “I’m happy married and don’t drink anymore,” Anthony says.  “What else don’t you do anymore?” Suzanne asks before getting up real close to him.  “Do you enjoy being a mattress?” he asks.  WHAT A GREAT LINE!!!!!  Ultimately, he succumbs and her towel is dropped as she goes in for a big kiss. 

Candice can’t catch a break with her husband.  After puffing up his ego about his dwindling star status, they fall into bed, where Candy coos his name way too loudly, and I guess that’s what distracts him, because he rolls off of her to call is agent again. 

Speaking of agents, Angie is dying to see the “Family Reunion” script, which no one has seen.  She tells her lackey that even bribery is allowed in getting it.  He tells her that Steve wants to leave his agent and they should sign him, and Angie barks, “not if he walked in here on his hands and knees and offered me his first-born son!”  Those following the plot and not just the great lines can guess why, though Steve tells Candice that it’s because she was his agent once, but when he became a big star, he dropped her and she’s never forgiven him.

In Florida, not only has Anthony slept with Suzanne, but he’s drinking, though he says “it’s only a bracer” he needs to meet with Robert.  Suzanne still wants in the movie.  “Family Reunion” is not a movie.  It’s a film.  There is a difference,” he says before telling her a) she should think of doing comedy (slam #1) and b) she needs to be “out before the maids come in and splash us all over the tabloids” (slam #2).  As soon as he leaves, Suzanne digs through his luggage and finds the script.  Those following the cliches can guess where she’s going plot-wise.  She calls Angie to brag about her conquest and lies, saying Anthony has promised her a role.  Don’t see where she’s going yet?  Do I have to spell it out?  B-L-A-C-K-M-A-I-L.

Suzanne makes sure she’s on the same flight as Anthony and mentions having read the script.  She wants the lead.  “You’re not, um, exactly, unspoiled,” as the script calls for, he notes.  “You don’t have to be a virgin to play a virgin,” Suzanne oozes before suggesting they join the “mile high club,” which he’s never heard of.  But, they don’t need the bathroom.  They go for it right there in the seats! 

Shameless Mary makes a play for her best friend’s husband, meeting Steve on the street and ordering him in the car so she can show him “my house in the hills.”  Candice won’t know.  She’s off playing tennis with Joanna, who, once again, can only talk about Anthony, her ex-husband who dropped her because she’s not a “creative” person.  At Mary’s, Steve and Mary massage each other by the pool, but that quickly turns sexual, which is just gross, because he’s old enough to be her grandfather.  “It’s true what they say about you.  You are so damn sexy,” she whispers.  That must have been a tough line to get out for our poor Mary.  I wonder how many takes it took.  He’s at home with flowers for Candice when she returns, promising him she’ll get him the “Family Reunion” script just to spend time with him.  “If I get it, I want a weekend alone with you,” she says in desperation.  “Get that script and a weekend won’t be long enough,” he replies, smacking her on the ass. 

Just as Andrew is informed he’s being kicked out of the apartment because his friend is returning, Catherine bounds in with the news that she’s pregnant.  He can’t get any acting roles and all of his scenes in various states of undress show he’s clearly in great shape, so can you guess where he’s going to get some quick cash?  You can’t?  Then I’ll wait, FINE!

There was a clue to it previously, but I chose not to mention it.  However, we can no longer avoid discussing the fact that Candice is…wait for it…a kleptomaniac!  Yes, she steals expensive things from the finest Beverly Hills stores.  And gets quite a rush from it, I might add. 

Dimwitted Andrew thinks he can fake his way into Stefanie’s office by pretending he’s pals with Warren Beatty, but she figures it out very quickly (Stefanie is so wonderfully smart!) and decides to give him a chance.  She allows him to read for her and she’s impressed, but won’t make any promises because he doesn’t have an agent.

At the racetrack, Candy, Joanna and Mary are picking horses and Mary says she has the perfect horse for Joanna, “Major Stud.”  “Actually, names don’t mean a thing.  Only performance,” she says, and talks about the stamina of her latest stud.  Thankfully the race is about to start, cutting off the puns, and Joanna admires the wallet Candice just stole.  Candice needs her pals because Joanna’s father runs a studio and Mary’s is a legend and only their help can make her party a success, the party she’s planning that will put Steve back on top in Hollywood.  How can a party do that?  I don’t know, but for over an hour, it’s been discussed ad nauseum, so it’s going to be a big event and when big events happen in stories like these, well, it will be a whopper!

The killer?  He’s made it to Iowa, where he has a stupid conversation with a little girl trying to give away a cat about how important adoption is.  Yes, we get it.  He’s angry to have been given up for adoption.  That’s been obvious since his first scene.  He then helps a woman fix her car and she offers him a ride with her kids to Cedar Rapids.  He leaves the dead cat on the side of the road before getting in. 

While a clearly uninterested Steve suns himself at the pool, Candice rattles off her guest list, which includes everyone from Gregory Peck to John Travolta.  She tells Steve that Joanna is going to get them the script and reminds him of his promise.  She wants to go skinny dipping, but he brushes her off.  “Why is it you always make me feel like an intrusion on your life?” she asks.  He says he has “important things” on his mind.  “I’m important.  At least you used to think so!” she snaps before walking away. 

With doors slamming all over the place, Andrew finds Roddy’s card and can’t avoid the inevitable any longer (can you really say you didn’t see that coming? I know I promised to wait until it happened to tell you, but I know you didn’t REALLY need me to tell you where his plot–or any plot for that matter–was headed).

Suzanne and Anthony do it in the shower, which gives Suzanne a chance to model yet another towel, but she’s serious about the part in his movie.  “I know what this town thinks of me.  They wouldn’t even let me test for Joan of Arc last year,” she pouts, in another Great Unbeatable Jackie Collins line.  Anthony concedes that Suzanne is a good actress (and how many takes did you need to say that without laughing, Sir Anthony?), but she’s “about as right for the part as Sylvester Stallone.”  Suzanne then plays her trump card.  “Think about this,” she says, going over to the wall and revealing a hidden camera behind the mirror.  “That’s blackmail!” Anthony says.  “I think of it as a negotiating posture,” Suzanne says, employing her biggest words yet.  “Yeah, a negotiating position for a whore!” he rails.  But, she has the upper hand and my guess is she will get her screen test.

As expected, Andrews trots off to Roddy’s interior decorating/antique shop (as if Roddy isn’t gay enough just by appearing in the scene wearing a cravat, we drop him in an antique shop as an interior decorator) to ask for his old job back.  Andrew is hesitant to take the work, but he has to find a place to live first.  Roddy says he has a place for him, so Andrew agrees to squire around the Texas ladies Roddy has ready for him.  When Roddy takes Andrew and Catherine to the house, Catherine falls in love with it and Roddy changes the story so that Andrew has to sleep with the women from Texas.  Incensed, Andrew refuses, but Roddy has him over a barrel (a position, I have it on good authority, that Roddy himself used to prefer), because all  he has to do is mention Andrew’s past to squeaky clean Catherine. 

For pure cheese, you can’t beat the scene where (a clearly guilty) Anthony takes Stefanie out on the town for their anniversary…to the hot dog stand where they met.  Only he’s had it done up with a red carpet, a violinist and all the formal trappings.  The limo whisks them off to the top of the Hollywood Hills where the driver disappears for two hours. 

At a conference with Stefanie and Rod, Anthony nervously suggests Suzanne for the role of the virginal heroine, noting that she would even be willing to test for the part.  Rod is thrilled, because she’s “big box office,” but Stefanie, after learning it’s not a joke, is outraged, suggesting Burt Reynolds for the part of virginal male in the script. 

Andrew and Catherine play their next scene walking on the beach in Malibu with Andrew wearing a leather vest to show off his body.  Let me guess, now Roddy is dressing him too?  With a bottle of poppers, he could get laid in any gay bar in West Hollywood.  Catherine asks to meet Andrew’s mother, and he refuses.  He has to leave her to go meet Roddy’s women, always dressing that up as “making contacts.”  Get this!  She offers to go with him.  Oh, that would be cute.  “In this heat, forget it” is his way of getting out of that one.  A kiss and more twinkly music doesn’t hurt. 

In an attempt to, I don’t know, intersect some of the various plots, or perhaps just because of budget reasons, Roddy and Andrew have lunch before meeting the Texas women and Candice and Joanna are at the next table discussing the party.  Mary has guaranteed Robert will be there, Angie has signed on and even Suzanne, whom Joanna jokes has been rumored to be a “stand-in for porno queens.”  Joanna cautions Candice that Suzanna “might even make a play” for Steve at the party, but Candice is confident that he never strays.  He’s had more women than she has hairdos in “Hollywood Wives,” and that’s a lot!  Joanna manages to turn the conversation back to Anthony leaving her for a creative woman, spitting out a few sentences like they were hot coals in her mouth.  She asks Candy what she would do if Steve ever cheated.  “I’d kill him.”

So, cut to Steve and Mary in her hot tub.  Mary tells him that if he left Candice, he could have a whole lot more money with her, especially when Robert kicks and leaves her everything.  She wants to be married, but he’s enjoying the fact that they aren’t, right as a photographer in the bushes starts snapping pictures of them. 

Let’s take a moment to see more cracks in two of the wives’ marriages and how they handle them.  First, there’s Stefanie, certainly not stupid, who adds up some clues and thinks Anthony is drinking again, as he shakes his way through a glass of orange juice.  Of course not!  She’s the one who dried him out the first time, but she won’t do it again, laying down the law, but nicely.  She is Stefanie Powers, after all.  Not as nice is Candice Bergen.  Not only does Steve bait her by telling her the party is ridiculous, but he also calls her by…gasp…her real name!  “Etta is dead.  I told you never to call me that again!” she seethes and stalks off. 

With the women from Texas, Andrew is the dumbest hooker on record.  Hell, he even uses his own name.  The women are salivating over him.  They make sure he’s not gay first and then refuse a trip to Rodeo Drive?  “All those foreigners?” one clucks.  They want one thing from him, and he’s very nervous.  He has theater tickets for them and they find the theater “boring…very boring.”  I had trouble containing my wild glee when the two old broads suggest a threeway and actually use that world.  Oh, the Great Unbeatable Jackie Collins is fearless!  They will double Roddy’s price if he agrees.  He insists on $1000.  “Well, what are we waitin’ for?” they say in agreement.  Breaking the news to Catherine isn’t easy.  She cries on the phone, the whole works.  I’m all for a good threeway, but watching my poor darling Andrew actually get it on with two elderly ladies is tough to watch. 

It is tough to manage, as well, because Andrew can’t do it.  He breaks away from them, throws the money back and leaves in a huff.  He best get home soon because a mysterious man is watching Catherine through binoculars. 

While waiting at lunch for Mary (who is having sex with Steve), Candice tells Joanna the whole story of her friend “Etta,” a fat ugly school joke who was raped and had to give up the baby, but moved to Hollywood to work in a studio make-up department.  “A studio joke,” Joanna laughs.  But, “Etta” lost all the weight and changed her name.  Yup, Candice spills it all to her true pal Joanna.  “It hasn’t been so easy for me to get to this point in my life and I want to stay,” she assures Joanna.  Joanna assures her she will never have to go back to “Etta” because every man “in this town needs us, depends on us.  They couldn’t do anything without us!”  We’ve needed some out-in-the-open feminism.  That’s what built The Great Unbeatable Jackie Collins–making her readers feel like queens.  “What about her baby?” Candice rhetorically asks.

We catch up with our mother-seeking killer in Las Vegas, boarding a bus for Los Angeles. 

The mysterious man with the binoculars is none other than…Rod Steiger, who has become so infatuated with Catherine (in the day or so she’s lived in Malibu) that he wants her to play Nikki (the role Suzanne wants) in “Family Reunion.”  Being pregnant, she’s no virgin, and she’s definitely not an actress, so she’s stunned into silence. 

The private investigator taking pictures of Mary and Steve is working for Mary’s father, Robert Stack.  Robert orders all the photos destroyed, but the wicked laugh the PI gives means he’s got other plans for those pictures. 

Stefanie and Anthony have an annoyingly cloying scene on a pier where Anthony tries to apologize.  Stefanie accepts it, but for the life of me, I’m not sure for what he’s apologizing.  She doesn’t know about the drinking or the cheating.  After he finishes, he then cons her into letting Suzanne do a screen test, allowing her to think it will be awful and put them in the clear.

It’s finally the day of Candice’s party.  Today, she seems to have a maid, because after telling Steve to “stay out of everybody’s way” by going to the gym (which he needs) and getting a hair cut, we hear her tell someone that the caterers are due to arrive shortly.  As soon as she buzzes out, Steve calls Mary.  When she calls him, the machine picks up and if you were alive in 1985, you’ll know that if you picked up the phone while the machine was recording, your conversation was recorded.  It will be so much fun when Candice eventually hears such lines as, “all I need to do is dry off and I’m on my way” from Steve or “don’t bother, I’m only going to get you all wet again” from Mary. 

Our killer has made it to Hollywood and Vine, the only place in Hollywood where he shouldn’t stand out.  He’s stopped by a drug dealer and asks, “did you ever see ‘Dirty Harry’?”

“I don’t want to hear anything about ‘creative control!’  I’m fed up with ‘creative control!’  There’s no such thing as ‘creative control!’  This line is shouted by Rod, but honestly, it sounds like something Aaron Spelling would say after someone told him to cut down on sex or glitz in one of his TV shows.  He’s upset because Stefanie keeps standing her ground on this, her first picture, having told him that “the only thing wrong with this movie is you!”  Rod then asks Anthony about his affair with Suzanne.  “She was a hooker when I met her,” Rod says, explaining that they have a session “once a week…it keeps the old ticker in shape,” and also that he’s her “father-confessor.” 

Our young married couple has moved back in with Andrew’s hooker buddy Stephen Shellen, but since Catherine doesn’t understand why, he’s upset and when she’s upset, she cleans.  The kitchen area, the living room, with a scrub brush, whatever is needed.  With nothing else to clean, she hauls Andrew outside for a conversation we knew was inevitable, but frankly I don’t understand why it’s in this place.  It’s the “what happened to the man I married?” speech.  Sure, the unsuspecting wife of the guy doing wrong always gets one in a miniseries, but in actuality, Andrew hasn’t been acting that strange.  Married only two months, she also doesn’t know him that well anyway.  He spends all of his time looking for a job, so on the one “date” he was sent on, that time away from her was easily explained.  Okay, there are the apartments and houses constantly popping up and being yanked away, but Andrew has maintained his personality.  He’s never gotten angry at her, never hit her, hasn’t started drinking or doing any of the behavior that warrants that speech in this place in the story.

As expected, Candice hears the message on her machine and cries (but without tears).  So, she does what any self-respecting Hollywood wife would do, makes herself a drink and goes to summon the pool boy (good luck to him getting that fringe costume off her–I’m not even sure how it’s on in the first place).  But, there’s a hitch.  The pool boy leaves before she can get him!  So, she does the second thing any self-respecting Hollywood wife would do, goes to Beverly Hills and shoplifts.

Casting agent Dorothy Dells, who only speaks in innuendos, has heard about Andrew’s luck maybe possibly perhaps kind of sort of getting a shot at a screen test for “Family Reunion” and decides he should “meet the right people.”  She offers to take him to Candice’s party as her “young handsome escort” and when he asks if he can bring his wife, she replies, “maybe you can bring your in-laws too.”  When she starts to drop names, he suddenly forgets his wife and agrees to go.  “It’s black tie.  Your waiter’s outfit will be just fine,” Dorothy says as she shoves Andrew out the door. 

Unfortunately, the eagle-eyed people at Gucci see Candy steal the necklace and arrest her (which means taking her to the manager’s office, not jail), where she threatens to cancel her account.  Since she has no ID on her, they are not willing to let her put the necklace on her account.  She switches tactics and mentions her husband’s name, having the manager call the barber shop, where, get this, she leaves a message with the barber to have Steve call her at Gucci!  “There’s one other place,” she says mournfully before dialing Mary’s.  Mary doesn’t answer, as she’s in bed with Steve and “forgot to turn the machine back on after” Steve called earlier.  Oops.

The killer buys an illegal handgun, “the one that Clint Eastwood used in ‘Dirty Harry'” according to him and “the most powerful handgun ever made” according to the drug dealer. 

Catherine has left Andrew and after being offered a job by a street pimp, she finds a store looking for a receptionist, a dream job she mentioned to Andrew a while back when offering to help with the income.  Suitcases in hand, she goes inside to apply.  It’s a hair salon, so of course it’s run by James “Gypsy” Haake, a flaming queen (named Koko, no less–not Coco, Koko).  She lies about her age.  “Chutzpah!” James declares and hires her.  He even has a place for her to live, so she’s hired on the spot.  “You gotta start workin’ today, because the phones are drivin’ me crazy!” Koko says.  Without so much as an explanation of how the salon works, she answers the phone and starts booking appointments. 

Mary has two problems.  The first is that her father Robert Stack wants to spend more time with her.  The other is Candice, who now knows about her husband’s infidelity.  And if she cannot provide any ID, she’ll go to jail., 

The detective who has been following and filming approaches him on the street so he can blackmail him.  Suzanne, in a gigantic bath, calls Anthony to find out when her screen test is happening.  See, her blackmail works too!

The hot chick from the pool where Andrew and Catherine lived tells Catherine that Andrew “needs action, and a lot of it.”  That’s why she slept with him.  The bitchy woman plays both sides, telling Andrew that Catherine never calls.  For some reason, hair client Meg Wylie has taken a shine to Catherine and invites her to Candice’s party.  “My husband is still on safari,” she tells us.  But what will Catherine wear?  Her caftan-loving boss says he has “dresses I haven’t worn yet!” before marshaling the entire salon to help find glamour.

Steve bails Candice out of the Gucci manager’s office and can’t understand why she would shoplift.  She gives him the “I want to be noticed” speech that crackpots often do, but he has no right to judge as he’s sleeping with Mary, a fact Candice knows.

The only line in a scene where Angie tells her assistant of her past association with Steve, who dropped her soon as he became famous is “boy meets agent, boy loves agent, boy loses agent.”

Here’s news: Candy and Steve have a son.  I only know this because in Candice’s big monologue she mentions taking him to school every day.  The rest of the conversation is cliche.  “I gave you the best years of my life.” “You don’t know how sorry I am.”  As she leaves, she turns and says, “oh, and after tonight, I’m leaving you.”

Party time!  Steve is nowhere to be found, Angie is snippy, Joanna caustic and Candice handles it all well.  Stefanie arrives in a VW bug, and Robert tells her he’s “impressed by her sense of economy.”  Anthony can’t go with Stefanie because he first has to get the blackmail tapes from Suzanne.  But, Suzanne has heard that the part is already cast (Catherine), so made plenty of copies.  If he doesn’t get her the screen test, “I’ll go to the movies with [Stefanie].  Then comes a moment so ludicrous, it can only have happened in Hollywood.  Anthony chokes Suzanne, looking like he’s going to stoke out any minute and then kisses her so they can have sex.  Outside of the bondage world, you just don’t expect to see such things. 

Back at the party, zingers are shot so fast that nearly everyone gets wounded in under an hour.  Take this exchange: Robert asks “what should we toast to” and Steve replies “talent.”  “And to those who don’t have it!  Meow!  Andrew shows up on the arm of the casting director and everyone loves Catherine.  Angie snubs Steve every chance she can get.  Oh, and of course, Joanna is still pining for Anthony. 

Since Stefanie has been relegated to the role of den mother to all of Hollywood, she finds Andrew at the party and tells him not only did she get him an appointment with Angie, but told the latter that he’s as good as Pacino.  Across the room, Andrew sees Catherine, but before he can ask why she is there, Rod barrels over, having found his elusive goddess for the picture.  There is a lot of arguing, but it ends with Catherine saying, “I don’t want a role in your movie.  I don’t want a role in any movie.”  There’s a girl who knows what she wants,” clucks Stefanie as Catherine makes a dramatic exit.  I think we’re supposed to understand that Stefanie sees some of herself in Catherine. 

Mary finds a way to get Steve to dance with her and she puts her hands all over  him.  He tells her to cool it, but she has this 14-carat line: “The proverbial cat is out the proverbial bag” and then kisses him wildly in front of everyone.  Robert has to go break them apart.  An uncomfortable dance between Steve and Angie, who has a grand revenge plan in her head, wants him in her office at 9am on Monday. 

Father and daughter have a heart-to-heart.  He wants her to calm down and she just hates him.  But why?  Well, apparently Mary caught him “making love to a 15-year old girl on your dressing room floor.”  Robert knows Mary is repeating his mistakes, and he also tells her he’s always loved her.  He’s not good at showing emotion.  As Mary falls into his arms wailing “Daddy” Robert tells her he’s coming home “for good.”  Fifteen years of misery can finally be buried.  When Frances congratulates Mary on the detente, Mary tells her she’s pregnant with Steve’s child, so tempers are bound to erupt soon enough.

Rod has good news for the crowd.  Robert Stack has agreed to come out of retirement and to “Family Reunion,” which is good news for everyone but Steve.  Robert goes over to Steve with the double whammy of “you could do television” and “next time you touch my daughter, I’ll kill you.” 

A drunken Stefanie (after drying out Anthony, she still drinks?) baits Rod one too many times, so he tells her that Anthony is at Suzanne’s.  Indeed he is, doing what a lot of aging leading men did, especially on TV.  While having sex with Suzanne, he has a heart attack (if The Great Unbeatable Jackie Collins had not written this, I would have assumed it was an Aaron Spelling twist since he used it a few years before when Cecil Colby died in bed with Alexis).  Suzanne can’t think of anything better to do than ask “are you okay” at a high decibel level.  “Forgive me [Stefanie]” are his last words before collapsing. 

Andrew offers to take Stefanie home because she’s so drunk.  “I don’t want to go home.” “Where do you want to go?” Eye contact.  Everything but the porn music.

True to her word, things are over between Candice and Steve.  The moment the last guess and staff leave, she brings him a suitcase and orders him out. 

Stefanie and Andrew spend the night together in a motel, but purely as friends.  Stefanie groans about her problems and he does the same.  In the morning, he has to get to Angie’s, and while he’s showering, Stefanie hears about Neil on the news and they rush over.  Rod doesn’t want to let anyone in, but Stefanie say, “for God’s sake, I’m his wife!” Anthony is unconscious, but that doesn’t stop Stefanie from crying big as she apologizes.  Outside the door, Joanna shows also claiming to be his wife.  When she sees Stefanie, the latter tells her he had a heart attack in the bed of another woman.  “Who?” Joanna wants to know.  “Neither of us,” Stefanie says and flounces off.

Andrew leaves the hospital to meet with Angie, who asks if he has a wife, because it will be hard to make him a “sex symbol” so he lies and says he’s not married.  She invites him to her house for dinner that night and then extends the same invitation to Steve.  The pieces are falling into place! 

Just FYI, I haven’t forgotten our killer.  He’s in LA now, skulking around vacant lots and houses, apparently with some sort of plan in mind, though crazy pants hasn’t revealed it to us yet.  He goes to the adoption agency and holds a gun on the woman who sold him, gets the name of his mother and then kills the woman. 

Mary and Steve meet for lunch.  She thinks it’s because he wants to move in with her and he wants to brush her off.  Mary lowers the boom that she’s pregnant and refuses to get an abortion.  She wants them to get married.  He says, “I just can’t turn my back on [Candice].” 

As proof of how lousy she feels, Candy has gone from fringe and leather to terrycloth.  Joanna tries to cheer her up, telling her she’s an independent woman and can live without Steve!  They then agree to go to the hospital, which is where Joanna thinks she should be. 

Angie’s dinner from hell is exquisitely trashy.  She doesn’t miss a trick.  The campaign of “who is Ross Conti” that she used for Steve is now “who is Buddy Hudson,” and Andrew’s picture is far sexier.  “He’s going to be the biggest star in this town since, well, since you,” she acidly notes.  Just as Angie was telling Steve how much she’s hated him for 25 years, her assistant comes in with the news that Anthony has died.  At the blackmailing photographer demands his money from Steve or he’ll go to the National Enquirer.  “Show all the pictures you want and then GO TO HELL!” Steve roars.  Come on, not even a process server would show up at a funeral!  Oh, Hollywood.  Oh, The Great Unbeatable Jackie Collins.

Wait, it gets better!  Only steps from the grave, Rod tells Stefanie that Anthony “was like a brother…but now that he’s gone, I’ll have to renegotiate your contract.”  Ever elegant, Stefanie whispers her response into his ear.  This is camp classic HEAVEN! 

Looking wonderfully homeless, our killer decides it’s time to shore his locks.  He goes to a beauty college where it’s cheap.  Koko’s would be too expensive. 

Candice arrives home from the funeral to find Steve sitting among a jungle of apology flowers.  “Do you think I’m going to forgive you ‘like that’?  You are some baby,” she stings, using the word that Joanna always uses for the men in Hollywood.  But, she has the upper hand, telling him he can have the house, that she has already packed up and is leaving.  Where will she go?  “I don’t know.  Someplace where there are real children to take care of.”  Get it? She lavished attention on her husband because her baby was taken from her.  Deep, huh?  Well, not really, but since when does The Great Unbeatable Jackie Collins need to be deep?

As things are wrapping up, we go into the Land of Convenient Lunacy.  Throughout the movie, Andrew and Catherine have made mention of his mother, but so little that it goes by unnoticed.  Well, now with his wife back, he decides to go see K Callan and confront her about some molestation that happened between mother and son.  “But I’m not your mother,” she explains.  He’s adopted, as if that makes the childhood trauma is any less horrible just because he’s adopted?  They simply leave that alone and don’t discuss it before Andrew runs away.  I assume in the book, this plot had far more to it than a casual mention and a two minute scene. 

The killer shows up at Angie’s dinner party from hell, part 2.  The assistant answers the door and is horrified at what Andrew has done to his hair.  Okay, folks, it’s finally time I came clean.  The actor playing the killer is Andrew Stevens.  One role wasn’t enough for such an actor of his caliber, so they found him a piece that had TWO roles for such an actor of his caliber.  Angie and the assistant think it’s actor Andrew going for a role when he shows up acting strangely.  Even after the killer announces he’s not Andrew, they still think he is.  When he pulls out proof of her having delivered twins, she tells him, “they told me the babies were stillborn,” that she would never have given up her own sons.  The assistant tells him to blame the lady at the agency, but he’s already killed her. 

Catherine’s appearance at Angie’s is a shock to Killer Andrew, who kills the assistant and grabs Catherine, leaving Angie enough time to call the police.  Catherine refuses to believe he’s not actor Andrew.  Catherine makes a run for it just as Steve is arriving and of course Killer Andrew and Steve fight for the gun.  Steve is shot just as actor Andrew arrives.  “Nobody ever cared about me.  I would have been a good boy…you should have been a better mother to me,” the mad twin says, with Angie swearing again she didn’t know he was alive.  The two Andrews struggle for the gun and thankfully it’s the good twin who plugs the bad one. 

Get out the hankies, folks.  Dying, Bad Andrew says to Angie, “why didn’t you love me, mother?”  “I never knew I had a brother,” Bad Andrew says to Good Andrew in the midst of death twitching.  “You’re my mother?”  “I guess I am,” she says, as if there’s something to be unsure about.  Why would they give the kids away?  “Maybe your father can help you understand,” she says, nodding to Steve.  Now you can see why the title of the movie’s “Family Reunion” is so ironically apt. 

Candy shows up at the hospital to take Steve home after recuperating from his gunshot scratch.  Why?  “I got jealous.  If anybody is going to shoot you, I want it to be me,” is her terrific reply.  However, she puts him into the limo and goes her own way. 

The movie ends with Rod Steiger talking to the reporters assembled at the hospital, but about the movie he’s planning.  Something about the wilds of Africa and WWII and Suzanne Somers.

Impeccable trash.  That’s what “Hollywood Wives” is.  There is no masquerading here, no attempt to gloss over the idiocy of Hollywood folk, just a blatant expose and that’s what makes it so much damn fun.  Jackie Collins, who had an inside track for years, no doubt based the character on people she knew, and what better location to use than Hollywood, where nothing is real? 

Proving that there was little reason to dress this up as anything but a gigantic royal cheesefest, why not go out and hire the weirdest assortment of actors?  Rod Steiger is so loud in all of his scenes I wondered if perhaps he wasn’t starting to go deaf.  Between them, Robert Stack and Steve Forrest were about 204 years old in 1985, and one as bad an actor as the other.  Yes, we’re supposed to believe that they are the biggest stars in Hollywood?  Angie Dickinson’s super agent is well-played.  Candice Bergen has the hardest role, really the linchpin role, and she’s a smart actress, so she knows here when to pull back and when to lay it on thick.  I wish the same could be said for Mary Crosby who acts only in oversized emotions.  Poor Joanna Cassidy has nothing to do.  Stefanie Powers plays the role she always played.  Remember, in 1985, Anthony Hopkins was not the megastar he would be a decade later, more known for his British stage work than anything else.  So, this must have seemed like a plum role, though he treat it like the plum has turned  into a prune.  Andrew Stevens, sexy as ever, is fine in two roles.  The few vets tossed in (like Roddy McDowell) certainly understand this ain’t Chekhov.  In that vein, it’s really Suzanne Somers who comes off best.  Playing a bimbo was something she did well from the beginning of her career, but this bimbo knows how to rig a house with camera systems.  She has the worst lines and the worst plot, but Suzanne gives it everything she has and is delightfully daffy here. 

Categories: Romance Miniseries

3 Comments to “Hollywood Wives (1985)”

  1. The Rush Blog 3 June 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    Yes, we’re supposed to believe that they are the biggest stars in Hollywood?

    Actually, Stack’s character is supposed to be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood (which I found hard to believe). Forrest’s role is a Hollywood has-been, stuck with doing “B” movies (that is more believable).

  2. Ellen Grossman 24 September 2015 at 6:17 pm #

    To whom it may concern: I was wondering if ever they are bringing back on dvd in the Us Hollywood Wives. and Deceptions. can you please let me know if it will ever happen. Thank you Ellen Grossman

    • Bj Kirschner 25 September 2015 at 11:19 pm #

      I wish I had the answer for you. From what I can tell, no, it does not seem that either are in the pipeline. Earlier this year, before anyone new Jackie Collins was ill, she announced that over the next year or so, all of her books were being re-issued, delighted that some of the older ones would be back in print (and e-book editions) with sexy new covers. Perhaps there is a plan for DVDs based on her works as well. We can hope. : )