On August 11, 1980, our reigning Playmate of the Year, Dorothy Stratten, a beautiful and talented woman, was killed by her estranged husband, Paul Snider, who then killed himself.
The press coverage was intense and varied, ranging from the objective to the perversely speculative. We told the story, accurately and in detail, in our May 1981 issue. We got an astonishing number of expressions of sympathy.
Others in the media saw in Dorothy's story dramatic potential for films and books. A lovely actress had been killed by a man she could not love; it was a classical plot with contemporary embellishments.
In November of last year, NBC-TV aired Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story. The facts in the script by Donald Stewart were familiar: Dorothy's teenage life in Vancouver, her relationship with Snider, her introduction to Playboy and Hefner, her subsequent successes and her tragic death in a house in West Los Angeles. Jamie Lee Curtis made a noble attempt to portray Dorothy but did not convey the sense of innocence that was at the center of her personality. Bruce Weitz, of Hill Street Blues, played---tautly and effectively---the frightened little man who could not make Dorothy love him. The supporting cast, including an understated Mitchell Ryan as Hef, were conscientious but limited.
Glimpses of Dorothy emerged: her kindness, her modesty, her unfaltering sense of loyalty. But Curtis could only look attractive while Dorothy was stunning. And, in the confines of soap-opera theatrics, she could not grow from a real girl to a real woman as Dorothy had.
There are others ready to take on the Dorothy Stratten story. Among them: Bob Fosse. His version, to be titled Star 80 (Snider's license plate), will not, he told us, be the sort of "crude and exploitative" effort that the NBC-TV film was. It will be impressionistic rather than strictly biographical---an approach that he used effectively in his autobiographical All That Jazz.
"I find Dorothy's whole story fascinating." he said. "Everyone seems to know who she was, but each has a different idea of what she was." Working from his own script. Fosse will start shooting this May for a projected 1983 release (by The Ladd Company).
Another director, Peter Bogdanovich, has a special stake in the ongoing fascination with Dorothy. Their relationship, in the final months of her life, was the most productive one she had ever experienced---both personally and professionally. Bogdanovich directed her in her final film. They All Laughed. He purchased the movie from the company that financed it and is distributing it himself. Bruce Williamson reports that Dorothy's screen presence is "radiant"; see his review on page 32.
Bogdanovich is also at work on a book. tentatively titled D.R.S. 1960-1980, about his relationship with Dorothy. William Morrow plans to publish it in the fall. The proceeds will go to Dorothy's family.
It is clear that a legend is taking from, one that will grow. We will continue to monitor it---to guard the integrity and artistry of the friend we lost.