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Flashback: Dolly Parton Teaches Sylvester Stallone to Sing

The singer-actress paired up with “Rocky” for the disastrous country spoof ‘Rhinestone’

Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone during "Rhinestone" New York City Premiere at Coronet Theater in New York City, NY, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection WireImage

After transitioning from country queen to pop crossover success, Dolly Parton set her sights on the silver screen. The one-two box-office punch of 1980’s 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in ’82 earned Parton a pair of Golden Globe nominations, and both films were solid hits with critics, too. How ironic, then, that teaming for 1984’s Rhinestone with the actor who played Rocky on the big screen would deliver a near-fatal blow to the film careers of both Parton and her pugilistic costar, Sylvester Stallone.

The premise: Country singer Jake Farris (played by Parton) makes a wager with her manager in an attempt to get out of a long-term contract, assuring him she can turn an average guy off the street into a country star in just two weeks. The manager chooses New York cabbie Nick Martinelli (Stallone), who not only can’t sing, but who also hates country music. Audiences hated it, but not as much as the critics did. In his review, Roger Ebert noted that “the country ‘training’ sessions…could have been fun if they’d been written with a satiric edge. Unfortunately, they seem to have been written with a blunt instrument.”

Rhinestone‘s less than shiny run at theaters was polished off by nine Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Award nominations, including Worst Picture and Worst Actor for Stallone. Parton was, thankfully, spared a Razzie nomination. The Razzie-nominated screenplay for this stinker, by the way, was penned by Stallone, an Oscar nominee for Rocky‘s screenplay, with Phil Alden Robinson, who would later earn an Oscar nomination for Field of Dreams. And just prior to this film, director Bob Clark had helmed the holiday classic A Christmas Story.

In spite of Rhinestone‘s failure, one single from the soundtrack, “Tennessee Homesick Blues,” topped the country charts and another, “God Won’t Get You,” reached the Top 10. It would be another five years before Parton would return to the big screen, in the much more successful ensemble film Steel Magnolias.