Big Dreams And Broken Hearts


About the film

Promotional Poster.

Since the untimely death in 1991 of Dottie West, nothing has done more to memorialize and pay homage to her brilliant, if contradictory, life and career than the movie project conceived and created by former Broadway star/Knots Landing heroine Michele Lee. Big Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story was a labor of love, a story the versatile actress believed she was destined to tell and a role she was destined to play! Though she met Dottie only once briefly there was a “spiritual connection” from that moment on, and an inner empathic passion for the woman Lee described as “having an aura about her.” “Something was very special about her,” Lee explained.

Michele spoke of how “she was ahead of the woman’s movement—even though we were really into it—being the first female country artist to win a Grammy, being a successful country songwriter when that was tough for women…marrying much younger men, before many did that.” The actress was very emotionally involved in her heroine and her fascinating human drama throughout the three-year process of making the film which was premiered on CBS Sunday movie January 22, 1995 to spectacular reviews.

After she heard while driving with her husband of Dottie’s death, Michele waited six months before she approached Dottie’s family about her idea. But she first telephoned Ken Kragen who had worked as Dottie’s manager and arranger for a long span of time and explained what she desired to do and asked if he would consider working on the project with her.

Michele Lee assumed the persona of Dottie complete with her costume, wig, and total look and proceeded to go to see him. In an exclusive interview for this page, Kragen spoke about his involvement in the movie:

“Michele Lee coming to my office in a Dottie West wig and playing a video tape for me that she made of her singing Dottie’s hits—that was the start of our partnership on The Dottie West Story,” Kragen explained. Dottie’s former musical director Edgar Struble also worked on the project with Lee, assuming the role as composer, music supervisor and music editor for the film.

He spoke, in an interview for this page, about his experiences while working on the project: “One day,” Struble related, “Michele stepped off the coach right in front of me wearing one of Dottie’s outfits and carrying the Hartman makeup bag that Dottie carried everywhere. Michele looked so much like Dottie at that moment, it was like seeing a ghost. I literally wept.” He went on to say, “We worked for a couple of weeks in the recording studio, re-recording all of Dottie’s old hits for the movie. Michele was a wonderful singer, and very convincing in her delivery of Dottie’s songs. We were able to hire some of Dottie’s old background singers and that was fun. The whole time we were on the set people who used to work with Dottie would show up and tell stories. It was a marvelous time.”

Struble was not the only one who wept when encountering Michele in Dottie’s clothes and wig. When Larry Gatlin saw her dressed in costume for the first time, tears came in his eyes.

Michelle & Kenny Rogers.

It really was no surprise that Michele Lee would assume the persona of Dottie West. “She became a part of me,” she had said, “I identified with so much of what she did and why. I loved her, and I loved Bill and her kids.”

When it was announced that she would play the role of Dottie, many people couldn’t picture her pulling it off, but it turned out that Lee was the one actress who could have done the job with such authenticity. Instead of using Dottie’s authentic music in the film, she decided to sing the songs herself. Her ability so impressed Kenny Rogers that he right away agreed to record with Michele all the duets used in the film. And it worked beautifully. Critics, as well as Dottie’s close friends and colleagues, raved about how her voice and appearance transformed her into the “ghost” of Dottie West! So much so, that working with her on the film turned out to be a very emotional and memorable experience for everyone involved.

“I always wanted to sing Dottie’s songs,” Michele said, “I knew I could do it and I studied everything she did for two years before we began production…I didn’t want it to end,” she explained, “I had a lot of trouble on the last day; I didn’t want to let go of the character.” “Nobody’s perfect, but Michele Lee is pretty darn near,” raved critic Matt Roush in a USA Today review about her portrayal in the film. When Michele first visited Shelly, Dottie’s daughter, they hit it off immediately, and she gave the actress the “go ahead” for the project. They ended up working very closely during production. Michele credits the close relationship she developed with Shelly as adding “authenticity” to the film. Shelly helped her with Dottie’s dialect and arranged for the film’s costume designer to go through her mother’s wardrobe (which was then still in storage) to choose those costumes she wished to use in the film. Up to that point, Shelly had not been able to face looking at them until they were brought out and refitted for Michele to wear.

Shelly told the actress that she finally completed her grieving process during the production of the film. The role of Bill West was played by actor William Russ, with close friends Larry Gatlin and Kenny Rogers as themselves. Other close, beloved friends—”She had a zillion friends and fans,” wrote one critic—Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins and Kris Kristofferson made cameo appearances. Actress Tere Myers portrayed Dottie’s soul mate and pal Patsy Cline who played the hard-drinking, saucy, earthy star with humor.

Michele Lee believes that she “connected in some mysterious way” when she met Dottie briefly backstage at a taping of a TV show called Circus of the Stars in 1983 when they came face to face as Dottie was coming off the stage. There was a “spiritual connection.” Undoubtedly, the reality implicated in that connection resulted in a unique symbiotic re-enactment by Lee of her esteemed nemesis. The critics raved about her portrayal of Dottie, and the film which was a ratings phenomenon for CBS, became one of the network’s highest rated movies ever, and is considered to be a “classic” of its genre. “Michele Lee shines and gives wonderfully nuanced performance” wrote Entertainment Weekly.

Michelle Lee as Dottie West.

Lynne Heffley of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Michele Lee plays the hard-living, hard-loving late country star with irresistible gusto…when she and Kenny Rogers get together, sparks fly. Her full, sophisticated vocals are a pleasant reminder of this TV queen’s credentials as a Broadway star.”

“A stupendous performance. An absolute Emmy cinch!” declared critic Marilyn Beck. Author Tammy Carter of the Times Picayune wrote in a lengthy, descriptive critique, “At one point in the movie, it’s hard to tell where Dottie ends, Lee begins and vice versa…”

In one somewhat grumpy review, R.D. Heldenfels said that he did not believe for one minute that she is Dottie West!

Big Dreams & Broken Hearts, Michele Lee’s remarkable homage to Dottie West, did garner two Emmy nominations. The two-hour movie in which the actress wore 52 different costumes—including those made by designer Bob Mackie—and six different wigs delivered an expanded view of the late entertainer’s life to her millions of fans, and for the first time exposed some shocking if restrained details of her complicated life. No one from her hometown, McMinnville, Tennessee, had ever had a full-length movie made about his or her life. No one had ever achieved such international fame or been so controversial and beloved as Dottie West.


“Big Dreams” Credits

Executive Producers Michele Lee & Ken Kragen
Producer by Robert Berger
Associate producer Richard Ostlund
Director Bill D’Elia
Writer Theresa Rodgerton
Costume Designer Faye Sloan
Editor Bill Johnson
Producer Designer Charles Lagola
Music by Edgar Struble
Cinematographer Richard Rawlings A.S.C
Music by Edgar Struble
Filming Location Nashville, Tennessee


Michele Lee ….Dottie West
William Russ ….Bill West
Lisa Akey ….Shelly West
David James Elliott ….Byron Metcalf
Norm Woodel ….Jim Reeves
Tere Myers ….Patsy Cline
Cathy Worthington ….Jeannie Seely
Ben Browder ….Alan Winters
Tony Higgins ….Kris Kristofferson
Larry Gatlin ….Himself
Kenny Rogers ….Himself
Kris Kristofferson ….Himself
Chet Atkins ….Himself
Loretta Lynn ….Herself
Willie Nelson ….Himself
Dolly Parton ….Herself


West won!
Michele Lee Blows ’em Away!

NBC SUNDAY MOVIE:…………………………………11.5 | 18
ABC SUNDAY MOVIE:…………………………………11.7 | 18




This photo was taken while shooting the scene which takes place after a Kenny Rogers & Dottie West concert. Dottie, after a show, was known for lingering with her fans signing autographs or discussing a favourite family recipe. Often the bus would be waiting for her, so Kenny expedites Dottie’s departure by throwing her over his shoulder and taking Dottie to the bus. This photo was captured during a “one take and one take only” scene due to the questionability of Kenny’s back being able to do multiple takes. Although it is slightly blurred, this is a live action capture.
This photo was taken on the day the final scenes were shot. Dottie’s funeral was the last to film. These great gentlemen came to the location that day to take part in this last scene where the whole Dottie West family was present. Dottie’s real family members were there. Michele Lee became close to Shelly West, Dottie’s daughter, during the development of Big Dreams and Broken Hearts.
This photo was taken during one of the many days filming the concerts of Kenny Rogers and Dottie West. Michelle Lee wore many of Dottie’s original costumes, loaned to her by Shelly West. Michelle wore 52 changes in the Dottie West story. Many of Dottie West’s costumes were made by Bob Mackie and Fay Sloan, a costumer for The Grand Ole Opry who worked with Dottie, altered the clothing to be wore by Ms. Lee in the film. Subsequently, Fay restored each altered costume to their original state to be returned to Shelly West.
Bill West, played by actor William Russ, and Michele Lee in a PR photo. Shot on location at Dottie’s first home with Bill West.
Byron Metcalf, played by actor David James Elliott, and Michele Lee in a PR photo. Shot on location outside the Grand Ole Opry.
This image was taken on the day of filming the scene when Kenny and Dottie first meet in the studio. Dottie was known for running late and Kenny Rogers had the studio session following Dottie’s. While waiting for Dottie to finish her recording Kenny listened and made suggestions to her. The two started singing together and this was the beginning of a truly dynamic duet. The song was “Every Time Two Fools Collide.”
Michele Lee and Loretta Lynn on location the day Ms. Lynn participated in the movie. Loretta Lynn was amazing, very kind and sweet to the crew. When Loretta was shot she ultimately kept off script and told her story in her words. She felt more comfortable that way. Everyone loved her.
Shelly West at The Grand Ole Opry with Michele lee and Fred Rappoport.
Shelly West, played by actress Lisa Akey and Tess Marie, Dottie’s granddaughter, played by a child actress at Dottie’s funeral scene.
While shooting the last scene in the movie, Michele was singing “Country Sunshine” when the audience began to snicker, then laugh. “I looked behind me to discover the director and producer upstaging me with their little dance.” A photographer caught the moment.
Michele Lee in Dottie West costume
Michele Lee in another original Dottie West costum.
A note from Michele Lee to the creator of this website.


If you have any rare / unique images of Holly you want to share let me know so I can let you know how you can get them shown on this site!