4.7/5 Barnes & Noble
Preceded by Valley of the Dolls
Followed by Once Is Not Enough
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Country United States
Publication date May 1969
Originally published May 1969
|Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
Pages 512 pp (First edition, cloth)
Genres Novel, Fiction, Romance novel
Similar Once Is Not Enough, Valley of the Dolls, Every night - Josephine!, A Small Town in Germany, Yargo
The Love Machine is the second novel by Jacqueline Susann, the follow-up to her enormously successful Valley of the Dolls (1966). Published by Simon & Schuster in 1969, the book was a New York Times #1 best seller.
The Love Machine tells the story of ruthless, haunted Robin Stone and his life and career in the cut-throat world of 1960s network television. Handsome but promiscuous, the latter earning his nickname the Love Machine after he describes television with the same sobriquet, Robin is loved beyond all reason by three women: Amanda, the beautiful but doomed fashion model; Maggie, the beautiful but headstrong fellow journalist; and Judith, the beautiful but aging wife of fourth-network founder Gregory Austin.
As Robin rises and falls (both in and out of his bedroom), many people cross his path. They include Christie Lane, the vulgar but vulnerable comic who becomes an unlikely TV star; Ethel Evans, the homely but athletic "celebrity fucker" who lusts for Robin but can't have him; Danton Miller, the dapper but desperate network executive who fears Robin; Austin, powerful and daring but vulnerable in his own way; Sergio, the loving but pragmatic companion to Robin's mother, the beautiful but ailing Kitty; Lisa, Robin's suspicious sister; Ike Ryan, a producer who befriends but is befuddled by Robin; Dip Nelson, an actor-turned-producer whose loyalty to Robin is sorely tested; Cliff, a network lawyer who mistrusts Robin; and various prostitutes, fading actors, psychotherapists, and the like.
The title of the book refers not just to the character of Robin Stone, but to the television set itself. As Susann herself explained, "The title has a dual meaning... the man is like a machine and so is the television box, a machine selling the love of the actors and love of the sponsors.”
Robin Stone is said to be based on James Aubrey, one-time president of the CBS television network. Aubrey, known as the "smiling cobra," apparently heard "what Susann was up to" and told her to "make me mean, a real son of a bitch."
Of Susann's novels, The Love Machine is the only one which has at its center a male character. It was, Susann stated, an "attempt to get inside of men's ids." It's also the only Susann novel with an ostensibly happy ending.
Susann dedicted the book to her friend Carol Bjorkman, a columnist for Women's Wear Daily, who died of leukemia in 1967.
Critical reception of The Love Machine was not positive, but it was slightly better than that of Valley of the Dolls. Although Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of The New York Times wrote that the novel "is popcorn... the kernel of an idea, the seed of an inspiration, exploded into bite-sized nothingness," Nora Ephron, in the same newspaper, said "'The Love Machine' is a far better book than 'Valley'--better written, better plotted, better structured." As with Valley, the reviews did not affect sales: The Love Machine spent 32 weeks on the Times best seller list, with 13 of those weeks at #1. The book became the third highest-selling novel of the year, behind just Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint and Mario Puzo's The Godfather.
Columbia Pictures bought the film rights for $1.5 million, which was a record sum for the time. Released in August 1971, the film was executive-produced by Susann's husband, Irving Mansfield and directed by Jack Haley, Jr., with actors Dyan Cannon, Robert Ryan, and John Philip Law as Robin. Actor Brian Kelly, whom Susann had called "the perfect Robin Stone," was cast, but just prior to filming Kelly was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident. John Phillip Law was hurriedly cast, and was compelled to wear many of the costumes already designed for Kelly. Law was significantly taller than Kelly, and his too-short cuffs are apparent in the finished film.
Dionne Warwicke [sic], who had a major hit with "(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls" in 1968, sang two songs written for the film, "He's Moving On (Theme from The Love Machine)" and "Amanda's Theme"; the film soundtrack was released on Scepter Records. Susann herself had a cameo as a television newscaster.
Like the film adaptation of Valley of the Dolls before it, The Love Machine received negative reviews. Unlike Valley, however, the film version of The Love Machine was a box-office flop.