Plot & Details
The top-rank performances of Lauren Bacall, Richard Chamberlain and Lindsay Frost elevate the two-part TV biopic Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke from the usual malaise of lurid, voyeuristic trash. As she lies near death in her luxurious mansion, 80-year-old tobacco heiress Doris Duke (Bacall) hardly seems to take notice of the sinister behavior of her boozing, control-freak butler Bernard Lafferty (Chamberlain). Ultimately, of course, Doris will die (in 1993), and the mysterious circumstances will cast suspicion on the redoubtable Mr. Lafferty (who himself died three years later). Before this happens, however, Doris flashes back to the sordid events of her life, whereupon the title role is taken over by a series of younger actresses, with Frost playing Doris from ages 20 through 50. We see how Doris' future is shaped by her loving, overindulgent father (Joe Don Baker) and her aloof, icy mother (Kathleen Quinlan). Though warned early on that Doris would always have to be wary of fortune hunters, she progresses through a string of highly publicized and largely unhappy romances, and also endures two disastrous marriages. All the familiar players in this real-life drama are in attendance, including writer Louis Bromfield (Brian Dennehy), international playboy Pofirio Rubirosa (Michael Nouri), and Doris' adopted daughter Chanzy (Mare Winningham) who is destined to break Doris' heart time and time again until the grieving millionairess finally worked up the courage to renounce the girl. Also touched upon are Doris' lifelong obsessions, which ranged from mysticism to belly-dancing. Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke was originally telecast by CBS on February 21 and 22, 1999.