Malice in Wonderland (TV Movie 1985) Poster

(1985 TV Movie)

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Elizabeth is good but Jane Alexander is the reason to watch
jjnxn-130 April 2013
Your enjoyment of this will depend on an interest in Golden Age Hollywood, if you have it than this is an pleasant diversion with a high voltage movie star and an accomplished actress. If you don't than there isn't much here to hold your attention. The real pair of women were far more venal than they are portrayed here but for a TV movie this isn't bad. Liz is fine although her decision to approximate Parson's droning speaking voice while accurate doesn't enhance her performance, it's just distracting. The top performance comes unsurprisingly from Jane Alexander. She gives nuance and meaning to Hopper that surely wasn't in the script. Most of the supporting cast is bland and forgettable, it is surprising to see Tim Robbins pop up in the small role of Joseph Cotton. The production design and in particular the wardrobe is very high quality and adds a nice sheen to the proceedings.
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A rather dull experience
istuart021 May 2014
I first came across these two harpies when I read Kenneth Anger's superb "Hollywood Babylon". His waspish descriptions of this brace of bitches is both hysterically witty and makes you eager to learn more about them. I bought "Hedda and Louella" by George Eells from The Strand book shop in New York but found it rather plodding - I didn't wade too far into the tome. Apparently, this film is based on that book and I was hoping it would be a condensed precis that would make me re-engage with the book, but it didn't. My word, is it dull! The script is dull, the direction - is there any? - is dull and the performance of most of the actors with the exception of Dame Liz and Richard Dysart (who disappointingly plays Louis B. Mayer as a human being instead of the baby eating ogre Kenny Anger makes him out to be). Oh for the film version of "Hollywood Babylon"!
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Funny but not THAT funny...
NewBeanz13 May 2002
The movie is a mildly funny comedy which you will laugh-out-laugh at but will forget the day after. A movie about the two Tinseltown 'divas' Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons could have been far better when its comedy source is the Hollywood 'Golden Age' struggle for who gets the better star gossip...

In short, Elizabeth Taylor(Louella) and Jane Alexander(Hedda)are rivals in the showbusiness gossip business both on the radio and in the written press. While Louella has always exploited the ones around her and has flourished by sinking to the lowest level of slime, Hedda has a ruff time getting a job as a serious actress and is forced by financial constraints to go into Louella's territory. The two become archrivals and compete for the same men who eventually become ex-husbands of both. The comedy is provided by a lot of crazy hats, food fights and a few polished dialogues which give a hint of the movie's unexplored comic potential.

Elizabeth Taylor cannot play comedy. Her performance is far-fetched and over the top with shouted lines and evil glares at Hedda. Her character remains one dimensional(vengefull forty year old seeking cat-fights) with just a faint hint at her feelings for her child. Jane Alexander on the other hand delivers a rich performance going from drama to comedy without being ridiculous. She is perfectly transformed from middle-aged actress with good moral values that keep her hungry to gossip columnist/gold-digger/Louella, the ultimate Hollywood product: someone with no spine what so ever. Yet both women manage to keep away from the ultimate state of "She'd eat her young for an extra dime!". The writers go a bit too far with the whole ‘family is sacred' idea almost trying to force upon us a moral message that the reason these two women are unhappy is because they have undermined the importance of family, of ‘women shouldn't leave the kitchen' ideas of the fifties.

The subplots are quite funny and the writer manages to slip a good dialogue from time to time. Don't get me wrong: the movie is a good comedy but not the best it could have been. Its other strongpoints (besides Alexander's performance) include the presence of a lot of Hollywood famous people of the time(1940s-1950s), a small role played by young Tim Robbins and some witty irony pointed at the big studios.

BOTTOM LINE: Don't go out of your way to see this movie (especially if you are a Liz Taylor fan...) because the are thousands of better movies you could be watching. But if you stumble over it on T.V. on a lazy afternoon you'll have a good time and it will leave you with a sweet aftertaste...
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Hedda Hopper ruled the Roost, and American gossip
dennisg-615 February 2010
Back in the 40's and 50's one of the most powerful people in the world was Hedda Hopper. She had a big chunk of America champing at the bit to find out the latest dirt of celebrities. Louella Parsons worked for her for several years, and (after being taken advantage of one-too-many times) decided to branch out on her own.

This bio TV movie plays out some of the story of these Gossip Columnist giants. Each one wanted to get the BIG Scoop on the latest Hollywood scandal. These women worked very hard, working all of their contacts, to get the story.

Their mutual dislike for one another is well-portrayed. This movie shows the rush for fame quite well. I enjoyed the performance of Liz Taylor (as Hedda Hopper); she was perfect to play this larger-than-Life character. And, I liked Jane Alexander's role (as I enjoy most of her portrayals). There are many familiar faces in the cast (also a nice thing).
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The Reigning Two
bkoganbing1 October 2017
Although there were other movie columnists like Sheilah Graham and Jimmy Fidler by far the reigning two were Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper. At first Louella reigned alone with the backing of the Hearst newspaper syndicate and a radio show Hollywood Hotel. She had the studios in an uproar lest she report some indiscretion that one of their stars did. Their answer, create their own columnist to print their spoon fed publicity.

What Louis B. Mayer played here by Richard Dysart did is find the divorced much younger discarded trophy wife of stage immortal DeWolf Hopper who was struggling to make it as a character player. Hedda Hopper with some strong right wing opinions and a young son William Hopper to support seemed to be the right one. Dysart got the other studio moguls to go along.

It was their worst nightmare. Hedda got free of their control and they had two women now as the reigning purveyors of gossip and self appointed morals police of tinsel town. And the two couldn't stand each other.

Elizabeth Taylor who certainly had her life dissected by columnists plays Louella Parsons. Louella was a short dumpy woman and while Taylor gave it her best shot, I could never see Liz Taylor as short and dumpy. Parsons had a great source for gossip closed to all but her. Louella's husband John Martin was a doctor and his specialty was venereal disease. In his hands he held the celebrated privates of Hollywood. Why people went to him, God only knows. He's played here and underplayed by Jon Cypher.

Jane Alexander as Hedda Hopper is nothing short of outstanding. I remember Hedda Hopper in her last years on her favorite venue which before her death was Art Linkletter's House Party show. Alexander really got her down perfectly. By that time television had relegated print columnists as relics of a bygone era. Hopper had to go where the audience was. Hopper was a leading proponent of the Blacklist. That aspect of her was brought out in the film Trumbo.

Malice In Wonderland is an outstanding made for television feature. I wish it would come out on DVD and/or Blue Ray.
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