Country icon Dolly Parton and action legend Sylvester Stallone seem like an unlikely pairing. However, a 1984 comedy begged to differ. Of course, we’re talking about the infamous Hollywood misfire Rhinestone.
Rhinestone was banking on a lot of synergy and goodwill. Stallone was riding high after the one-two punch of Rocky III and First Blood in 1982. Meanwhile, Dolly had cemented her comedy acting chops in 1980’s 9 to 5. She followed it up with one of her best comedy performances opposite Burt Reynolds in 1982’s The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The film did well, and it makes sense that producers were hungry to pair Parton with another action stud in the vein of Reynolds.
Aside from the Parton and Stallone pairing, Rhinestone also has a comedy-directing king at its helm. Director Bob Clark cemented himself as a filmmaker who knew how to make moviegoers guffaw with 1981’s screwball sex comedy, Porky’s. Of course, he struck cinema classic oil in 1983 with the holiday essential watch, A Christmas Story.
Clark was a replacement for the unceremoniously fired first director, who had creative conflicts with Stallone. This led to weeks of footage being thrown out, and the production being pushed into cold winter months. This led to continuity problems and general discomfort for the cast and crew.
‘Rhinestone’ is a Major Comedic Misfire for Dolly Parton & Sylvester Stallone
Still, on paper, Stallone and Parton directed by Clark in a fun comedy has all the makings of a hit. However, it wasn’t to be.
In the film, Parton’s character makes a bet with a New York nightclub owner. She claims that she can transform any random guy from the streets into a country singer within two weeks. Enter Stallone, an uncouth Yellow Cab driver. Dolly persuades him to participate in the experiment and brings him back to her hometown in Tennessee, where her father, a country musician played by Richard Farnsworth, resides.
Most of the comedy attempts feature Dolly Parton instilling city rat Sly on how to be a country mouse. However, the screenwriters (Phil Alden Robinson, from Long Island, heavily reworked by New Yorker Stallone) are ignorant about Country Music or living in a rural place. For instance, she tells Stallone the way to walk like a cowboy is to pretend he has jock itch. So yeah, this wasn’t written by anyone with authority on Country Music or Honky Tonks. Bob Clark simply can’t spin a gold record from the zinc-level script here.
‘Rhinestone’ Features Stallone’s Most Embarrassing Cinematic Moment
The lack of authority on the subject at hand leads to the comedy ringing hollow. It feels like an idea everyone counted on being funny just by the pairing of Stallone and Parton alone. Perhaps the most infamous scene is one of Sly’s attempts to sing as a country crooner. Clad in a nudie suit and topped off with a misshapen cowboy hat complete with a raccoon tail, Stallone clomps through the number. It’s essentially a showcase of everything a clueless Yankee thinks a Country Music act is comprised of.
Upon its release in the summer of 1984, Rhinestone was panned by critics and failed at the box office. It was nominated for eight Golden Raspberry Awards that year, earning Stallone his first Worst Actor trophy from the organization. The film currently clocks in at 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. To make matters worse for Sly, he reportedly turned down the box office smash Romancing the Stone to star in Rhinestone.
However, the film did score wins for Dolly Parton. It resulted in two Top 10 country singles for her: “Tennessee Homesick Blues” and “God Won’t Get You.”
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