Picks and Pans Review: Leona Helmsley: the Queen of Mean

updated 09/24/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/24/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

CBS (Sun., Sept. 23, 9 P.M. ET)

C-

You were expecting maybe a hatchet job on the imperious hotel-chain harridan? This biopic, starring Suzanne Pleshette, is more a mild mugging. In fact, in light of Helms-ley's sour public image, it might be considered a beauty makeover.

We meet Leona Rosenthal in 1953 as she begins marrying her way to the top, trading up on husbands until she snares obscenely wealthy Harry Helmsley (Lloyd Bridges). She doesn't really get repulsive until well into the second hour. But the movie has already issued her a blanket absolution right at the start in a childhood flashback. Leona, it seems, isn't bad; she's just a girl who could never get her mother's attention.

The supporting cast is terribly bland, but Pleshette is a marvel, transforming her voice, looks and mannerisms completely over the movie's 25 years. Ultimately, The Queen of Mean makes its antiheroine look pathetic but kind of sexy, two qualities that Leona has rarely displayed in real life.

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