A filmmaker’s “love letter” to Hollywood star Valerie Perrine

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Author: Scarlett SherriffPublished: 12 May 2022

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Former actor Valerie Perrine.

‘Valerie’, a short documentary by filmmaker Stacey Souther, highlights the dazzling career of retired actor Valerie Perrine – and provides an intimate portrayal of her “courageous battle” with Parkinson’s

Hollywood actor Valerie Perrine – whose accomplishments in the cinema world include a starring role in ‘Superman’ in 1978 and a 1975 Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actress – was diagnosed with Parkinson’s less than a decade ago.

Her “fascinating life” was the inspiration behind ‘Valerie’ – a short documentary directed and produced by filmmaker Stacey Souther, which celebrates Perrine’s career while highlighting the impact of her condition.

“Valerie inspired me,” Souther tells Parkinson’s Life. “She was a showgirl in Vegas during its golden era and a movie star in 1970s Hollywood during the last decade of glitz, glamour and excess.

“When she was going to have [deep brain stimulation] surgery, I knew that was a once-in-a-lifetime event that had to be captured. I borrowed a camera and that’s how the journey began.”

On the film’s fundraising page, which was set up to raise money for production, Souther described first meeting the former actor in Los Angeles, US, more than 10 years ago. “Right away I was taken by her radiance, electrifying spirit and passion for life,” Souther recalled.

Speaking to Parkinson’s Life, he adds: “This film is a love letter to her. I didn’t want her to be forgotten. I wanted her life and legacy to be celebrated and shared with the world.”

‘Valerie’ shares some of the challenges that the actor has faced through her experience of Parkinson’s, including dental surgery to restore her teeth – which were damaged by medication to treat the condition – and DBS surgery to help manage her tremor.

Valerie Perrine celebrating her birthday.

“I didn’t want the world to think I just faded away,” Perrine says in the film. “I have Parkinson’s. It’s tough. I have to go day-by-day.”

Alongside present-day footage are clips from the archive of Perrine’s career, as well as interviews with other actors who were impacted by meeting her.

“Parkinson’s community’s response has been very positive – everyone says seeing her courageous battle with the disease is inspiring,” says Souther, who set up a fundraiser for Perrine’s treatment. “Seeing someone that’s in the spotlight having similar struggles and hardships, and facing them with such dignity, can make them feel stronger and more confident in their own personal battle with the condition.”

And despite the poignant subject matter covered in the film, Perrine offers a positive message: “No matter what life gives you, you have to fight.”

Souther, who comments on the “honour” of having his film preserved in the permanent collection of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences film archives, concludes: “I hope that people take away a sense of hope and are inspired by her story.”

Read more:

The film that’s helping people to process their Parkinson’s disease diagnosis

Captured on film: a brief look into life with Parkinson’s disease

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