Robbins too was accused of peddling porn disguised as popular fiction and had his own problems with small town libraries (and bookstores) banning his racier titles.
But readers in the 1950s and 1960s couldn’t get enough of steamy tomes like “The Carpetbaggers,” “The Adventurers” and “The Inheritors.”
One of Robbins’ gimmicks was to very thinly disguise real life celebrities as the characters in his books, so that it quickly became clear that Howard Hughes had inspired the aviator/movie mogul in “The Carpetbaggers” and that the jet-setting playboy Porfirio Rubirosa was the model for the sexually prodigious central character in “The Adventurers.”
Many of the books were turned into popular films and the studios had to perform major surgery on the original content to get these pictures released in the pre-ratings era when every movie had to be — theoretically — suitable for viewers of all ages.
One of the very best of this bunch is “Where Love Has Gone” (1964) which I saw for the first time a while ago thanks to Netflix.
Featuring Susan Hayward and Bette Davis in full scenery-chewing mode — Hayward plays a famously promiscuous sculptress and Davis is her San Francisco high society mother — the movie runs a very close second to “Valley of the Dolls” in terms of unintentional hilarity.
Borrowing once again from real-life Hollywood scandal, Robbins channeled the gossip surrounding the Lana Turner-Johnny Stompanato-Cheryl Crane murder trial in his tale of a mother and daughter who share the same low-life lover, with the daughter killing the man in the presence of her mother.
In the Turner scandal, the official story was that Crane was defending her mother when she stabbed the actress’ gangster boyfriend, but many people speculated about the possibilities of a sordid sexual triangle or that Crane took the fall for her mother.
The Robbins novel (and the movie) dive right into the sleaziest possibilities in the scandal, but the filmmakers had to be more careful about the sex content.
Hayward’s artist character is presented as someone who can’t be creative in her studio unless she is living a wild private life. When the sculptress settles into married life with a war hero (Mike Connors) she’s faithful…for a while.
The armchair psychiatry of Robbins and the filmmakers makes it clear that the woman is looking for “love” in all the wrong places because of her icy, withholding mother.
“You have made it publicly obvious that you have only one concept of love…a vile and a sinful one,” Davis tells Hayward in one of the most overheated scenes.
“When you’re dying of thirst, you’ll drink from a mud hole,” the grown daughter tells her dowager mother.
“You have devoted your life to mud and filth.”
“Only to get even with you.”
Hayward is in great form in “Where Love Has Gone” putting across one lurid scene after another. It’s like a test run for the bitchy Broadway star she played three years later in “Valley of the Dolls.”
Finally, after coming home and catching Hayward in bed with a barroom pick-up, husband Mike Connors has enough of his wife’s antics, screaming at her “You’re not a woman, you’re a disease!”
With Joey Heatherton as the killer daughter; a pre-”Star Trek” DeForest Kelley (above) as Hayward’s lascivious gallery operator; and film noir villainess Jane Greer as the social worker trying to save Hayward’s daughter, “Where Love Has Gone” provides more crazy entertainment than most of the “good” movies from 1964.