Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke (1999) starring Lauren Bacall, Richard Chamberlain, Mare Winningham directed by John Erman Movie Review

Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke (1999)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Lauren Bacall in Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke (1999)

Money Can't Buy You Happiness

After suffering a stroke late on in life billionaire Doris Duke (Lauren Bacall/Lindsay Frost/Hayden Panettiere) finds herself stuck in her room as her butler Bernard Lafferty (Richard Chamberlain) takes control of her ailing life and business affairs. With no control over her life she reminisces back to various events from as a child the loss of her beloved father and the coldness of her mother towards her especially when it came to the huge inheritance which she controlled. Then there were the relationships, marriages, affairs, business deals as well as an attempt to adopt a grown woman when she was getting on in years.

I had never heard of Doris Duke prior to watching "Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke" but it seems this ridiculously wealthy woman lead an eventful and fascinating life. And "Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke" tries to deliver a glimpse of that life as we are taken through various episodes in the life of Doris Duke whilst also suggesting that as Doris was ailing her butler of 6 years Bernard Lafferty manipulated the situation to not only quicken her demise but also take control of her assets. And it is well worked as we see events in the present such as the discovery that she no longer has control of her business affairs triggering the memory of the battle she had with her mother when she was just a small child over the inheritance from her father's death.

Richard Chamberlain in Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke (1999)

Now what this means is that during the flashback parts of the movie "Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke" is episodic and brief such as when the twenty something Doris met her first husband James H. R. Cromwell; we see them meet, her mum warn her off him, marry and before you know it the marriage is over when she realises he is after her money and has a thing for actresses. Considering that "Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke" is almost 3 hours long it is still unable to do her packed life justice and only manages to give us a glimpse at her life such as why she loved Hawaii so much.

Despite being episodic it does manage to highlight that whilst Doris enjoyed her wealth and was protective of it whilst also being a secret philanthropist it brought her great pain. We see how from an early age she lived a sheltered life because of her father's money she would be prone to kidnappings and we also see the cruelty of her mum when she makes the young Doris read all the death threats she receives having been protected from them whilst her father was alive. And of course we also see how through out Doris's life there were those who wanted to know Doris and get a slice of her vast wealth which with it suggesting that her butler Lafferty was the same meant that even in her dying days there were those wanting to steal her money. All of which combines to tell us about a woman who whilst leading an eventful life also lived a lonely one.

What is for sure is that almost 3 hours "Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke" is a big production and certainly has a look which whilst not the most atmospheric captures the various times in Doris's life. It is also a movie which relies heavily on the cast and Lauren Bacall, Lindsay Frost and Hayden Panettiere who play the various versions of Doris all do a fantastic job taking us from the innocence of childhood, through the years of being a woman determined to do her thing her way and onto old age where despite ill health Doris was still a domineering character. There is also a great supporting cast with Joe Don Baker delivering an entertaining performance as her father whilst Richard Chamberlain turns on the dastardly side as the scheming butler.

What this all boils down to is that "Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke" is an entertaining drama and an interesting look at the life of Doris Duke. But ironically at 3 hours this made for TV Movie/ mini-series is still unable to do her life justice as each episode in her eventful life is too short and frequently feels skimmed over. Not only that when it comes to Doris's wealth and her philanthropy it falls short on detail which I am sure in itself would make for a fascinating movie.