Lawsuit Threatens Lee Daniels' 'Valley of the Dolls' TV Series

Fox distributed the 1967 cult classic but allegedly gave up rights to a TV series adaptation in 1994.
Lee Daniels

A new TV series adapting Jacqueline Susann's Hollywood-set 1966 pot-boiler Valley of the Dolls is under legal attack. The NBC series is being produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television and shepherded by Academy Award-nominated director Lee Daniels (Precious), but it could be in serious jeopardy thanks to a lawsuit by Tiger LLC, which purports to own the rights to the original 1966 book.

On Wednesday, Tiger sued Fox, which distributed the 1967 Valley of the Dolls film starring Patty Duke and Sharon Tate.

According to the plaintiff, Fox acquired a limited right of first and last refusal for a TV series in 1965 but expressly waived that right in 1994. The complaint quotes Fox confirming that year that "it shall have no further rights in or to any Owner's Sequel or and Television Series Rights, all of which may be freely exploited by [Tiger]."

Afterward, rights for TV series were sold to New World Entertainment, which produced its own late-night syndicated soap opera that ran for 65 episodes in 1994

In 1998, Tiger optioned to Fox another movie version of the book but says that other rights were limited to a sequel or a TV movie. The plaintiff believes that the definition of a "remake" under the agreement didn't include a television series.

Now that Fox is working on a new TV series, Tiger says the actions have harmed its own licensing activity. The company reports finalizing a deal for consumer products based on the popular franchise, but "when the other party learned of the potential Valley of the Dolls television series, it would not finalize the transaction."

Tiger also says it wants to produce its own TV series based on Sussan's book, which was about her experiences and observations as a struggling Hollywood actress in the 1940s. The Guiness Book of World Records lists the novel's 30 million copies sold as tied with Gone With the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird as the best-selling novel ever by a female author.

Fox is being sued for copyright infringement, breach of contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing. The plaintiff, represented by Patty Glaser, is demanding an injunction and statutory damages. Fox hasn't commented on the lawsuit.


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