The Reel Review


Everyone loves Dolly Parton. And while this BBC commissioned documentary on Netflix doesn’t break much new ground, it is a wonderful reminder of why we all love the country music megastar, philanthropist and cleverly subversive feminist. It also is a nice, straightforward tell of Parton’s life story, weaving performances, interviews with friends and colleagues, some pretty amazing home videos of Parton as a child, photos of her childhood home in Locust Ridge, Tennessee and conversations with Dolly herself.

British director Francis Whately (Finding Fame) keeps the mood of his film very upbeat, touching on the main points in Parton’s career, including her years in the late 60s and early 70s on The Porter Wagoner Show, her solo career and her acting debut in the 1980 comedy 9 to 5.  At only an hour and a half, and with so much to cover, there isn’t time for a lot of depth, but it does get in the good stuff, including Dolly reconnecting with her Bluegrass roots in the 1990s – which features some great songs if you haven’t checked them out yet – and her recent career resurgence.

Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner

Fans looking for a deeply personal documentary won’t find it here. Dolly, who’s an expert at separating her public and private life, only briefly touches on her 54 year marriage to her reclusive husband, Carl Dean, and completely omits any mention of her lifelong friendship with personal assistant and childhood bestie Judy Ogle. She smartly gives us what SHE wants us to see.

Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Dabney Coleman in 9 to 5.

Among the interviews, those with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are the most revealing, sharing fun, behind the scenes moments during the filming of 9 to 5. The most touching – a tearful moment from Fonda as she describes the adoration Dolly’s fans have for her. This documentary will serve to solidify that feeling.


A rare public appearance by Carl Dean, who prefers a private life at his home on their estate south of Nashville.

• Dolly’s reclusive husband Carl Dean, who retired from running a local asphalt paving business a few years ago, last was spotted in public in January 2020. Carl and Dolly live in separate houses on their 63-acre estate in Brentwood, Tennessee.

• So how much money DID Dolly make for writing “I Will Always Love You?” She won’t give a specific number, only that it is in the millions, as royalties continue to roll in.

• Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, started in 1995, mails a book each month to children from birth to five years of age in East Tennessee to encourage literacy and reading. Dolly’s father never knew how to read or write.

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