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Susann, Jacqueline


SUSANN, JACQUELINE (1918–1974), U.S. novelist. Born in Philadelphia, Susann went to New York in 1936, a beauty contest winner anxious to break into show business. She got bit parts in movies and commercials and in 1939 married Irving Mansfield, a press agent, and got better jobs. In 1955 she acquired a pet poodle, Josephine, and a contract to be the fashion commentator of an overnight television show. In 1963 she published Every Night, Josephine, about her experiences with her poodle, whom she sometimes dressed up in outfits to match her own. The book was widely viewed as a novelty but sold well enough for her to get a contract for a novel, Valley of the Dolls (1966). The book channeled her inside show business savvy into a bestselling combination of romance, lurid sex, and sensationalism. The main characters were loosely based on the lives of the singers Judy Garland and Ethel Merman. Susann and her husband launched an all-out drive to publicize the book, effectively promoting it on television talk shows, and Susann became as famous as her books. Valley of the Dolls, a lurid saga of three young women coping none too well with the challenges of show business, was made into a film of the same name (1967). Susann also wrote The Love Machine (1969) and Once Is Not Enough (1973). Her books were hugely successful, despite savaging by critics, with Valley of the Dolls becoming one of the 10 most widely distributed books of all time.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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