39 Years Ago: Dolly Parton, Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Rhinestone’ Released
Sylvester Stallone was one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood in 1984, fresh from the success of First Blood, the first of his Rambo films. Dolly Parton, meanwhile, was not only one of music's biggest crossover superstars, but she had also starred in the movies 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, two back-to-back financial successes. Pairing the two for the comedy Rhinestone, which was released 39 years ago today (June 22, 1984), must have seemed like a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what most fans and critics thought of the resulting film. The premise of Rhinestone is that Parton's character -- a country singer stuck in a long-term contract with a sleazy New York nightclub owner -- brags that she can turn anyone into a country sensation. So, she bets that she can make Stallone's character, Nick Martinelli -- an obnoxious New York City cab driver -- into a country singer in a mere two weeks. If she wins, then her contract becomes void; if she loses, her contract is extended by five years.
Phil Alden Robinson -- who would go on to write and direct Field of Dreams, Sneakers and The Sum of All Fears -- wrote the original screenplay for Rhinestone, which Stallone himself re-worked. Robinson reportedly disliked Stallone's additions to his script so much that he thought about having his name taken off the film's credits. And on top of a far-fetched premise and problematic script, the fact that Stallone wasn't remotely believable as a singer didn't help the film, either.
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In the end, Rhinestone was a huge financial failure: It cost $28 million to film and earned less than $22 million at the box office. Critics universally panned the movie, too; it was nominated for a total of nine Golden Raspberry Awards (a.k.a. the Razzie Awards), including Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay and Worst Musical Score. It "won" two of them: Worst Actor (Stallone) and Worst Original Song, for "Drinkenstein" (featured above).
Still, the Rhinestone experience wasn't a total loss for Parton, who hit it off with her co-star: "We just rubbed each other just right," she once told Entertainment Tonight, "if you'll pardon the expression."
Parton also scored two hit songs from Rhinestone's soundtrack, "Tennessee Homesick Blues" and "God Won't Get You," but the failure of Rhinestone put the brakes on her career as a movie star for the moment. She returned to the big screen as part of an ensemble cast in Steel Magnolias in 1989, but her next starring vehicle, 1992's Straight Talk, was another box office dud. After that, Parton did not receive star billing in another feature film until 2012's Joyful Noise.
However, in recent years, Parton has enjoyed a cinematic resurgence of sorts thanks to her involvement with the hit TV movies A Coat of Many Colors and Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, as well as the Netflix movie Dumplin'. The latter earned her and Linda Perry a 2019 Golden Globes nomination for the song "Girl in the Movies," which appeared on the movie's soundtrack. Parton also oversaw and appeared in a Netflix series, Dolly Parton's Heartstrings, which features episodes based on her songs.
This story was revised by Annie Zaleski.