By Karen Kemmerle
If you didn’t get even a little excited when you heard Dolly Parton was making a return to acting, then you'd better check your pulse. This week's release of Joyful Noise (with Queen Latifah) marks Dolly’s first major film role in almost 20 years, and we could not be happier.
The radiant country music legend has appeared alongside such actors as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jane Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, Sam Shepard, Julia Roberts, and James Woods, all while holding her own in every performance. While some of you might question her range (shame on you!), you cannot be deny that Dolly’s natural charisma makes her a joy to watch on screen.
Dolly displays a quick wit, a can-do attitude, and an entrepreneurial spirit that are truly something to be admired. Her thick southern accent allows her to play a country singing “good-ole girl” or serves as the perfect vehicle for soulful homespun advice. In addition to writing/performing the soundtrack to most of her films, she has the distinction of owning her own theme park! So without further ado, The Reelist proudly presents our take on the five most notable movie performances by Dolly Parton.
Role: Mona Stangley
Best Dolly Quote: Me jumpin' up and down? I'd black both my eyes!
Come on down to the Chicken Ranch! One of the most successful musicals of the 1980s, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas features Dolly as Mona Stangley, the madam of the beloved Chicken Ranch brothel. Mona’s boyfriend Sheriff Earl (Burt Reynolds) serves as their protector, even after the brothel is reviled on television by one of the most powerful men in the state. With the Chicken Ranch’s busiest night of the year fast approaching (the University of Texas vs. Texas A&M football game), Mona readies her brothel for business, singing and dancing all the while. Dolly plays Mona as a determined, quick-witted woman with a song in her heart and a gun hidden away, just in case folks try to mess with her. Both Dolly and Reynolds both seem to be enjoying themselves, amd the fun is contagious.
Best Dolly Quote: You think you’re a fast rising star and maybe you are! But when it comes down right to it, a star is just a big ball of gas!
Rhinestone's reputation as one of the worst movies of all times is way harsh in The Reelist's opinion... Both Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone try their darnedest to make this backwoods Pygmalion work and to some extent, it does. Dolly plays Jake, a tough talkin’, soft hearted country singer whose impressive talent goes to waste by her slothful and lecherous manager, Freddie. In order to get out of her contract, Jake bets her manager that she can turn anyone into a country music star. Enter Nick (Stallone), a crazy Italian cab driver who reluctantly agrees to participate to see if he can survive an on-stage performance at NYC’s premiere honky-tonk bar, which boasts a notoriously tough crowd. When Jake takes Nick home to Tennessee, the two fall for each other, despite every painstaking note that comes out of Sly’s mouth. Dolly’s natural charm and winning smile shine just as brightly as the rhinestones on Stallone’s cowboy/Elvis jumpsuit in the final sequence. Rhinestone proves that Dolly is undeniably watchable in just about anything.
9 to 5 (1980)
Role: Doralee Rhodes
Best Dolly Quote: If you ever say another word about me or make another indecent proposal, I'm gonna get that gun of mine, and I'm gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot! And don't think I can't do it.
“Tumble outta bed and stumble the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition, yawnin’, stretchin’, try to come to life.” Dolly's signature song sets the tone for this good-hearted, zany comedy that earned Dolly three Golden Globe nominations in 1981. It was her feature film debut. Sadly, she left the ceremony empty-handed, but was well on her way to a nice acting career. Dolly plays Doralee Rhodes, the much put-upon secretary of Mr. Hart (Dabney Coleman) who can’t understand why the girls at work don’t like her. Doralee is warm, friendly and funny who always goes out of her way to be nice. Is it her ample bosom, big blonde hair or tight outfits? No! It’s the false rumors that Mr. Hart is spreading that they two are sleeping together. After she gives her boss a piece of her mind, she joins up with Judy and Violet (Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) to teach the sexist Mr. Hart a lesson. Through a series of crazy events, the trio has to work together to keep Mr. Hart tied up so they can make the office a better work place and save their jobs. Later, Dolly wrote the score to a Broadway adaptation of the film, which earned her a Tony nomination. The woman can truly do it all.
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Role: Truvy Jones
Best Dolly Quote: I have a strict policy that nobody cries alone in my presence.
Steel Magnolias is, without a doubt, one of the greatest chick flicks of all time, and Dolly is a welcome addition to a talented ensemble cast featuring Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, and Julia Roberts. Dolly plays the owner of Truvy’s Beauty Parlor, where all the neighborhood gals come together to gossip, laugh, and cry. Truvy is a kind hearted, church-going woman who takes pity on the shy Annelle (Daryl Hannah) and hires her as her “glamour technician.” Dolly is remarkably believable as she styles the ladies of Chinquapin and dispensing pearls of wisdom (“Honey, time marches on and eventually you realize it is marchin' across your face”) along with her perms. One of the most moving sequences in Steel Magnolias is the quiet scene where Truvy and her husband, Spud (Sam Shepard), prepare to attend a funeral of Shelby (Julia Roberts). Dressed in black with tears in her eyes, Truvy listens to the emotionally distant Spud finally confess, without ever saying so directly, how much he loves her. Dolly plays it masterfully, which makes us wonder what other dramatic roles she could have tackled.
Straight Talk (1992)
Role: Shirlee Kenyon
Best Dolly Quote: Sometimes you just have to toot your own horn. Otherwise, nobody will know you're a-comin’.
Holy Moly. Dolly Parton and James Woods played a romantic couple in a movie? That alones pushes this Dolly performance to the top of the list. Dolly plays Shirlee Kenyon, a smalltown girl who gets fired from her job as a local dance instructor and decides to make a change. She flees a fledgling marriage (to a still-hunky Michael Madsen) and moves to Chicago, only to find people a little less accommodating then she previously imagined. Shirlee talks her way into a receptionist job at a radio station, WNDY, only to accidentally wind up on the air when the new radio psychiatrist fails to show up. Shirlee becomes an overnight radio sensation, displaying her usual pluck and common sense, but is troubled by the fact that she is being forced to pretend that she is a real doctor. Soon, a reporter (Woods) begins to investigate “Dr. Shirlee,” only to fall in love with her and helps make her troubles disappear. Dolly’s skyscraper high heels, spunky energy, and down-home, practical advice will make you fall in love as well.