However, in 1945, Landis married her third husband, Broadway producer W. Horace Schmidlapp, to whom Susann had introduced her. There are also reports that Susann had an affair with the fashion designer Coco Chanel in 1959, and she repeatedly attempted to start a physical relationship with the Broadway stage and film actress Ethel Merman. These allegations have not been confirmed, and most of Susann's friends and colleagues dismiss them.
Jacqueline Susann was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Robert Susann, a portrait painter, and Rose Jans, a schoolteacher. In school, Susann was an intelligent but unmotivated student. She scored the highest on her class's IQ test, a 140, prompting her mother to predict that she would some day become a good writer. Susann had other ideas and instead had aspirations of being an actress. Susann's rocky relationship with her hard-to-please mother, as well as her starry-eyed view of her roguish father, would later be woven into her novels.
By the time Susann entered high school, she was dabbling in drugs and had earned the reputation of being a party girl. Although her parents hoped she would enter college, Susann left for New York City after graduating from West Philadelphia High School in 1936, to pursue an acting career.
Jacqueline Susann was an American novelist. Her most famous work is Valley of the Dolls. For decades, rumors have persisted that Susann was bisexual. The rumors began around 1945, when Susann appeared in A Lady Says Yes with Carole Landis. The two reportedly had an affair and some claim that Susann modeled the Jennifer North character in her novel, Valley of the Dolls, after Landis. According to Susann's biographer, the affair had begun when Landis bought her earrings and a fur coat.
Valley of the Dolls
After arriving in New York City, Susann landed bit parts in movies, plays (such as The Women), and commercials. A year later, she landed a decent theatrical job playing a lingerie model, earning $25.00 a week. While in New York City, Susann met a press agent, Irving Mansfield (né Mandelbaum). The two dated despite the fact that Susann was not sexually attracted to Mansfield. In turn, Mansfield wooed Susann by placing items and photos of her in theater and society sections of New York newspapers. The ploy worked, and the couple married on April 2, 1939, at Har Zion Temple in Philadelphia.
After the wedding, Mansfield went on to manage Susann's career. Mansfield made sure Susann was placed in news columns, and she soon was a regular on The Morey Amsterdam Show. She then got a spot in the Broadway show A Lady Says Yes, starring Carole Landis and Jack Albertson. The following year, Susann wrote her first play, Lovely Me, for production on Broadway. It closed after only 37 performances.
Despite Mansfield's devotion to Susann, rumors of her infidelities surfaced throughout their marriage. One of Susann's first affairs was with actor/comedian/singer Eddie Cantor. Cantor hired Susann for a role in the touring production of the play, Banjo Eyes. Cantor dumped Susann after his wife discovered the affair and demanded that he quit the play. In 1942, Susann met comedian Joe E. Lewis and the two began an affair. Susann fell hard for Lewis, which prompted her to write Mansfield a "Dear John" letter shortly after he was drafted by the United States Army in 1943. When Lewis learned that Susann and Mansfield separated and that Susann intended to marry Lewis, he applied for a USO position and was sent to New Guinea.
In late 1944, Mansfield and Susann got back together, and in 1946, the couple had a son whom they named Guy. At age three, Guy was diagnosed as autistic. The following year, Guy was committed to an institution, where he remains to this day. Mansfield and Susann told no one of their son's true condition; they told friends Guy was asthmatic and placed in a school in Arizona for the healthy climate. For the rest of her life, Susann was tormented with guilt over institutionalizing her son.
After suffering from a persistently bad cough as well as breathing problems for quite some time, Susann checked into Doctors Hospital on January 11, 1973, hoping to resolve the cough before her upcoming book tour which was to begin in March. Susann remained there five days while tests were being run. X-rays revealed a nodular lesion in the right lung area. She was transferred to Mount Sinai, a larger hospital with more extensive facilities, for a bronchoscopy and biopsy. On January 18 Susann was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, though there was evidently some debate among the doctors about whether it was an original and separate lung cancer, requiring perhaps more surgery but fewer chemicals. Susann was given only months to live yet persisted to go on a book tour for Once Is Not Enough. Like her other books, it was a success, in this case being the second best-selling novel of 1973 in the United States.
When she was admitted to the hospital for the last time, she remained in a coma for seven weeks before dying at the age of 56. Her last words to Mansfield were, "Hiya, doll. Let's get the hell outta here."
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Paperback: 442 pages
Publisher: Grove Press; (6th) edition (September 22, 1997)
Amazon: Valley of the Dolls
Amazon Kindle: Valley of the Dolls
Dolls: red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight—for Anne, Neely, and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three women become best friends when they are young and struggling in New York City and then climb to the top of the entertainment industry—only to find that there is no place left to go but down—into the Valley of the Dolls.
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