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The Girl Can’t Help It
Tom Ewell….Tom Miller
Jayne Mansfield….Jerri Jordan
Edmond O’Brien….Marty (Fatso) Murdock
20th Century Fox presents The Girl Can’t Help It. Screenplay by Frank Tashlin & Herbert Baker. Running time: 97 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release: 1956. DVD released: August 8, 2006.
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
Tony Randall….Rockwell P. Hunter
Jayne Mansfield….Rita Marlowe
Betsy Drake….Jenny Wells
John Williams….Irving La Salle Jr.
Mickey Hargitay….Bobo Branigansky
20th Century Fox presents Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Screenplay by Frank Tashlin. Running time: 93 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release: 1957. DVD released: August 8, 2006.
The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw
Kenneth More….Jonathan Tibbs
Henry Hull….Major Masters
Sid James….The Drunk
20th Century Fox presents The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw. Screenplay by Howard Dimsdale. Running time: 103 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release: 1958. DVD released: August 8, 2006.
Jayne Mansfield overwhelmed the silver screen during her brief tenure at the top. She was a busty blonde that didn’t mind posing for Playboy to make sure everyone knew that her talents weren’t wardrobe assisted movie magic. She’s been immortalized as part of the trinity of bleached. buxom goddesses with Marilyn Monroe and Mamie Van Doren. Even though she was signed to Fox for several years, she only made five films for them. The studio loaned her out to foreign studios to make a tidy profit without having to deal with her star demands. This boxset contains three of the five Fox films and includes her two best performances.
The Girl Can’t Help It allowed Mansfield to display every ounce of her talents in Cinemascope. America in the mid-50s was used to being slightly teased by a woman’s sexuality. But when Mansfield struts down the street to visit her talent agent’s apartment, there’s not a single man on the screen that isn’t pulverized by her flaunted figure. Icemen melt their stock. Milkman blow their bottles. And Little Richard howling the theme song as she shakes her ass reminds us that this isn’t FDR’s sexpot. Luckily she was hooked up with the right director in Frank Tashlin to completely exploit her performance. The former Looney Tunes director brought his cartoon mentality to live action comic situations. Jayne didn’t mind performing like an execrated animated figure. Tashlin once said, “There’s nothing in the world to me that’s funnier than big breasts.” And in Mansfield, he used the perfect comic device to his full advantage.
The story revolves around Tom Miller (Ewell), a down on his luck musical agent that drinks to escape his failed relationship with Julie London. Fatso Murdock, a mobster, wants Miller to turn his woman (Mansfield) into a singing sensation. While Miller discovers it’s easy to get all the right people to notice Mansfield, she doesn’t quite have the complete package. Plus she doesn’t want to be a singing star. She dreams of being a happy homemaker. And who wouldn’t want to come home to her? Miller knows that if he can’t make her a jukebox hero, he’ll be coming home in a bodybag courtesy of Fatso.
Even if this film stunk, it would be essential viewing for the early rock stars. There’s Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps ripping out “Be Bop A Lula.” Little Richard contributes the legendary theme song and goes on camera to perform “She’s Got It.” Fats Domino belts “Blue Monday.” We get the legendary Eddie Cochran, Julie London, Abbey Lincoln and the Platters. It’s a perfect snapshot of music from this period. But the live acts are a bonus to a great comic film.
While many considered Mansfield a knock-off of Marilyn Monroe, she created her own personality in her first major vehicle. Unlike her character, she arrives as a complete package in her first movie star moment. It’s hard not the help it when she’s on the screen. She didn’t mind playing up the blonde bombshell.
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is based on the Broadway play that gave Mansfield the clout to be a movie star at Fox. The film is still fertile with it’s look at the relationship between fame, desire and advertising. Tony Randall is Rock Hunter, a mild mannered jingle writer who saves his agency’s lipstick account by recruiting movie sexpot Rita Marlowe (Mansfield) to pitch the product. But instead of merely sealing the deal, he becomes a toy in her lover’s quarrel with her boyfriend, a TV Tarzan (Mansfield’s husband, Mickey Hargitay). She transforms Hunter from an uptight Madison Avenue foot solider into Lover Doll, the sex god that all women crave. They want to receive the paralyzing kisses that he uses on Rita’s lips. The ad agency is also in love with their man’s handling of the account as he explodes across the globe in gossip columns. The only person not loving this lovefest is Lover Doll’s real girlfriend.
The movie reunited Mansfield with Tashlin. Once again the director got the right performance out of her with his cartoon vision of reality. She’s able to shift from ditz to intelligent schemer without a stretching her credibility. She played with her own image especially since Rita is signed to be in Kiss Them For Me, the next film for Jayne. Tashlin got under the veneer of hype in both the worlds of showbiz and advertising. The opening credits are a highlight reel of live TV ads that has the products not even coming close to delivering the goods, but the pitchmen stay on script. They stick to the professional belief that as long as the words sound right, the viewer will think everything is perfect. This is still a truism – especially in political speeches. Of course when Jayne turns on the charms, you tune out the words.
The two films with Tashlin kept Jayne from being just a starlet sidenote in Hollywood history with a tragic ending. The themes of these films are contemporary. Think of how many record company executives have pushed their barely talented girlfriends into pop sensations thanks to payola? Think of how many superstar women have turned their lame boyfriends into celebrities? Cher’s Bagel Boy? Tom Arnold? Chris Judd? Kevin Federline? Both of these films can be remade without being retooled. The only problem with revamping these films is a current lack of cinematic vamps. Today’s crop of twig actresses don’t even come close to the carnal lure of Jayne. Do they even have enough meat on their bones to hold two milk bottles proudly?
The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw has Jayne playing a singing bar owner who helps an English gun salesman (Kenneth More) become the latest law man in a frontier town. He’s pretty clueless to the way things work and finds a client for his firearms in the local Indians. Naturally this turns out to make more work for him as the sheriff. Mansfield is forced to help clean up his mess. Unfortunately most of the film is a mess that she doesn’t have the power to overcome.
The tone of the film is set when Sid James appears as a drunk in a stagecoach. James is best known as a regular in the Carry On films and most of the comedy is on par with that series. If you enjoy F Troop, you should chuckle at this flick. Jayne doesn’t get too many great comic moments. She’s plays a tough cookie in a non-revealing corset and bustle. When she takes to the stage, her voice is provided by Connie Francis. Legendary director Raoul Walsh was behind the camera, but it’s far from one of his great productions featuring Bogart or Cagney. Fractured Jaw seemed to have been made to contribute to his retirement fund.
This film has the cultural significance of being the first film to use Spain as a substitute for the American West. Fractured Jaw launched the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone. This however is far from the Man With No Name trilogy. And the conservative wardrobe doesn’t give Jayne the same firepower as Clint Eastwood. The most amazing thing about this film is the trailer which features two minutes of background cloth, canned laughter and promises from the studio that this is “one of the funniest motion pictures this theatre will ever be privileged to play.” They do not show a single frame from the film. For those of you who complain that trailers give away too much about a film, here’s one that you can embrace.
It would have been nice for Fox to include all five of the features Mansfield made for them while she was under contract. Kiss Them For Me appears to have been slated for the box since the trailer is listed as part of the collection on the DVDs. Kiss Them For Me is out on DVD so you can pick it up if curious. Jayne is barely on screen for fifteen minutes in this Cary Grant flick. The Wayward Bus was her big stab at being a dramatic actress. It’s not out on DVD which is a shame since Jayne goes up against Joan Collins. The Jayne Mansfield Collection contains the two films that elevated her to cinema immortality. And when hasn’t two big spectacles not been connected to Jayne’s body of work?
All three films are color in an anamorphic 2:35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer prints are relatively clean.
Will Success features a soundtrack in English 4.0 Dolby Surround and Spanish mono. The subtitles are in English and Spanish. Film historian Dana Polan gives a dry academic lecture on the commentary track. Girl Can’t Help It features a mono and stereo soundtrack in English and a Spanish mono track. Film professor Toby Miller’s commentary track is unexciting. How does he keep his students awake? Plus he claims Phil Silvers is the milkman instead of Richard Collier. Shame Fox couldn’t give us John Waters’ commentary from the Region 2 version. The subtitles are in English and Spanish. Fractured Jaw has a mono and stereo English soundtrack and a 4.0 Dolby Surround French track. The subtitles are in English and Spanish.
A&E Biography Jayne Mansfield: Blonde Ambition (43:40) – This showbiz bio contains tons of home movies and private photos of Jayne during her entire career. We learn how she squeezed out a lot of living and children in her 34 years before a tragic car wreck near New Orleans claimed her life. The most amazing thing about the piece is that Jayne’s nudity is not blurred out. You get to see the topless highlight from Promises! Promises!
Movietone News: Nation’s Capital Scene of Texan Get-Together (0:57) – A newsreel clip shows how even politicians want to spend a little face time with Jayne when she arrived in D.C.
Mini-Lobby Cards A dozen photos from all three films that are perfect for decorating your office space. Best of the batch is Jayne and Groucho Marx embracing.
|InsidePulse’s Jayne Mansfield Collection|