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Hollywood Country: ‘Rhinestone’

Every Wednesday on The Boot we’re going to be taking a look at a classic film either about country music, or starring a country musician. The first installment of Hollywood Country kicks off with the Dolly Parton/Sylvester Stallone comedy ‘Rhinestone.’

Stallione was one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood in 1984, fresh from the success of ‘First Blood,’ the first of his Rambo films. Parton was not only one of music’s biggest crossover superstars, she had also starred in ’9 to 5′ and ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,’ two back-to-back financial successes. Pairing the two 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 night club owner — brags that she can turn anyone into a country sensation. 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, 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.

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. In the end it was a huge financial failure, costing $28 million to film, and earning less than $22 million at the box office. Critics universally panned the film, too; it was nominated for a total of nine Golden Raspberry 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 experience wasn’t a total loss for Parton, who hit it off with her co-star. “We just rubbed each other just right, if you’ll pardon the expression,” she told ‘Entertainment Tonight.’

Parton also scored two hit songs from the film’s soundtrack, ‘Tennessee Homesick Blues,’ and ‘God Won’t Get You,’ but the failure of ‘Rhinestone’ essentially put the brakes on her career as a movie star. 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, and she did not receive star billing in another feature film until 2012′s ‘Joyful Noise.’

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