66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This long overdue collection deserves a place on your DVD shelf as much for archeological as entertainment value. The two Frank Tashlin-directed films ("The Girl Can't Help It" and "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter"), which parody the more garish aspects of Fifties life but manage to work equally well as celebrations of it, make this set worth the price. "The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw" is icing, provided by the otherwise formidable Raoul Walsh.
"The Girl Can't Help It" is unlike any other film of its time, or of any other time for that matter. Equal parts comedy, love story, Hollywood musical, comic book fantasy, crass titillation, live action cartoon, and Rock `n' Roll road show, it somehow succeeds in engaging the viewer to the point that he or she genuinely likes the main characters - even the felonious ones - and inexplicably soaring above and beyond the sum of its parts. Sentimentality is held in check by the adept lunacy of the script and the strategic inclusion of then-embryonic Rock acts, and perhaps it's those acts that cause the film to transcend itself.
The Rock `n' Roll, Rockabilly, and R&B stars, near misses, and never-would-be's featured in TGCHI are showcased regally. This isn't one of those low budget, black and white, Alan Freed-mentored Rocksploitation vehicles so common at the time. While the acts are presented in a traditional manner for popular musicians in movies (similar to the way, say, Glenn Miller or Harry James were in the `40s), they're nevertheless the recipients of some perks that were usually reserved for A-list leading ladies and men, such as dramatic, "heroic" low angle shots, dollying boom shots, eye-popping color by de Luxe, and "the grandeur of Cinemascope", suggesting that something bigger than life was being archived for the ages. With the benefit 20-20 hindsight, we now know that it was.
Or at least in the cases of Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, The Platters, and Fats Domino . . . the same can't be said for The Chuckles, Johnny Olenn and a few others. But, after all, Rock `n' Roll was still a new thing in 1956, foreign to an incredulous world of worrying adults. Many no doubt thought it a passing fad, a novelty - as a result, every type of youth act the kids might have possibly liked was thrown in for the purpose of reaping immediate dividends. Perhaps, strange as it may seem, they saw no difference between Little Richard and The Chuckles. On the other hand, the naivete of those otherwise long forgotten performers being included on the same bill as bona fide immortals adds a certain charm to the film, as well as a sense of time and place of an increasingly distant, innocent past.
I would advise first time viewers against listening to the running commentary feature while watching TGCHI - the "expert" chosen to comment is frequently off base in his assessment of the Big Picture, and his muffing the minutiae is an ongoing annoyance. As an example of the latter, he doesn't seem to realize that the nickname of Edmond O' Brien's character is Fats - not "Fatso", as he calls him at least a dozen times throughout the course of the commentary. And that's NOT Phil Silvers delivering milk in the sequence of cartoon-like reactions to Jayne Mansfield's contour assets. Silvers was a big enough star at the time (he had been a well-known comic since WWII, and "Bilko" was in the works in 1956) to require a close-up in a cameo appearance (not to mention at least one line, or a quick wisecrack). If you're still not convinced, click the pause button and take a good look.
The (British) commentator is also oblivious to the "sock hop" phenomenon in the America of the era in which the film was made; he strains to find deeper meaning in the fact that the teenage audience dancing to the performances of Fats Domino and The Platters are not wearing shoes. It doesn't take a heck of a lot of research to determine that sock hops, or informal dances, were often held in high school gyms (as is the one in the film), and that a participant would be obliged to adhere to the enforced prerequisite of removing his or her shoes in order to dance in stocking feet, thereby sparing the floor from scuff marks - or else suffer the wrath of the principal.
While film historian Dana Polan, who ably handles the running commentary on "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter", stretches his credibility a bit on occasion, he's much more consistently on target than his TGCHI counterpart. For this picture, I would definitely recommend making the commentary part of your second viewing, if only to grasp the film's place in history, as well as the very history it's parodying. There's more to ponder in WSSRH, an honest to goodness satire of the excesses of postwar affluence, the `50s advertising boom, the growing cult of celebrity, and the phenomenon of celeb worship that followed as part and parcel.
Tashlin may have been hedging his bets and having it both ways in TGCHI, but WSSRH is undeniably scathing satire. There's palpable warmth permeating the former film, as well as a sense that the director wants us to feel some affection for the principles (beautifully played by Mansfield, the magnificent O'Brien, and "Seven Year Itch" alumnus Tom Ewell), which we do, and which is somewhat lacking - with few exceptions - in the latter film; in it Tashlin has bigger fish to fry.
As in TGCHI, the acting is vital to "Hunter's" success; as over-the-top as many of these performances are (by necessity), they are subtly nuanced all the same. Mansfield puts in a very fine performance as sex kitten/starlet Rita Marlowe, against the incredibly talented Tony Randall - the geeky but ambitious Rockwell P. Hunter of the title. The versatile and indispensable Henry Jones, a key player in "Girl", also shines, this time as Randall's co-worker, despicably shameless ad-man Henry Rufus. (In "Girl" Jones was ingeniously understated - here he goes brilliantly for broke.) Joan Blondell is also memorable as Mansfield's girl Friday.
But, to paraphrase Mousey in "The Girl Can't Help It", I don't want to "louse ya up", and leave you with the impression that these are heavy or deep films. Despite their worthiness for dissection and serious critique, it's all really secondary to the fact that these are two very funny and enjoyable movies, on any level, and both are ideal for an evening of lounging on the couch with a bag of popcorn, forgetting your problems, and laughing your contour assets off.
63 of 71 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Although Jayne Mansfield never reached the heights of popularity and fame
of Marilyn Monroe, her films are highly entertaining, campy and great fun.
I am not familiar with The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw, but I rate
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (with Tony Randall) as a little gem of a Cinemascope,
Technicolor comedy. As she does in all her films, Jayne plays
a highly exaggerated parody of Monroe, but brings her own brand of humor
and sweetness to her roles. The Girl Can't Help It (also Technicolor and Cinemascope) has a big bonus because it features some legendary music stars of the 1950s: Fats Domino, The Platters, Gene Vincent and Little Richard. This one's a must for fans of early Rock 'n Roll. I forgot to mention that sultry Julie London sings her huge pop hit, "Cry Me A River".
All the films look beautiful. The colors are rich and fresh as when the films were first released.
The Girl Can't Help It looks most amazing! You will not be disappointed.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
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I am a die-hard, dyed in the wool Jayne Mansfield fan. I am completely delighted that there is finally a Jayne set out. Despite the often simple comparison to Marilyn Monroe, Jayne was a different kind of "dumb blonde". Jayne had a screen energy and luminosity that could captivate a person. She was a comedic talent that, unfortunately was not allowed to shine as much as it should have.
This collection is nice. A lot of Mansfield fans have been waiting for "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" and "The Girl Can't Help It" to be realeased on DVD. The one disappointment is the missing movies. Jayne's career included some, albeit, low budget and explotation films, but her career could be better represented. This set would have been more complete with the addition of "Kiss Them For Me", "The Wayward Bus" and "It Happened in Athens". At least that would logically keep on track with her career and offer the viewer a better sampling of her tantalizing, fabulous persona. Unfortunately, this set does limit her as an actress, just has Hollywood did. But Jayne is a treat, in any size portion!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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Jayne Mansfield has become one of the most legendary names of 1950's cinema, ironic given many dismissed her at the time as a Marilyn Monroe clone which impeded her career (only seven major films at 20th Century-Fox and virtually everything else she was in was a low-budget "independent" film given scant release and attention). Yet like the unprolific James Dean, Grace Kelly, and Mae West, Jayne Mansfield remains a legendary pop culture icon far more so than many stars with 60 or more motion pictures to their credit. I think it's because like Dean, Kelly, and West, Jayne Mansfield hit the bullseye in a few pictures and it was enough to cement her legend. Both of Mansfield's bell-ringers, THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT and WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER, are on this collection with the added treat of a good little comedy-western THE SHERIFF OF FRACTURED JAW.
THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT - Jayne stars with Tom Ewell (Monroe's comic leading man in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH) in this comedy with music about a record promoter hired by a gangster to promote his talentless mistress into a pop singer. The three leading roles seem perilously close to those from BORN YESTERDAY but with it's three distinctive performers (Edmond O'Brien being the third) it's not that noticable. Jayne plays the girl (duh!!!) who despite her figure resembling a Playboy cartoon really wants to be nothing but a home-loving wife ("Nobody thinks I'm equipped for motherhood" she sighs, as her double D's practically pop out of her dress.) Director Frank Tashlin was a former cartoonist and the movie resembles an animated picture with outrageous sight gags and wacky humor. And the movie is loaded with music numbers that "expresses the culture, the refinement, and polite grace of the present day" - rock n' roll, baby!! Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Platters, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, and others making rare appearances in a major motion picture. GIRL is frequently mentioned as a candidate for the greatest rock n'roll movie of alltime for it's amazing musical performances and with the superb comedy work of Mansfield, Ewell, and O'Brien, you could hardly ask for more.
WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER - This 1957 satire has an astonishing sharp bite more than 40 years after it's initial release! The movie is loaded with sharp barbs on America's obssession with sexy blondes, big breasts, "personality" movie stars who want to be pretentious dramatic ones, two celebrities in "love" who have their every move covered by the press, ordinary citizens turned into media celebrities (or "reality stars" as we call them now), and television and commercials everywhere you turn makes you wonder if we've really changed at all in 50 years.
Jayne's delicious perfomrmance here is as good as any of Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow's best comic work. And she is definately an original. Despite the Monroe comparsions, it's hard to imagine Marilyn playing the spirited heroines of GIRL and ROCK, Jayne is maybe closer to an inflated Debbie Reynolds.
I did find Tony Randall a little unappealing, a movie leading man he ain't, even when playing a blah sort who gets hyped into stardom. All through the picture I kept thinking how awesome Jack Lemmon would have been in this role. Randall's not bad though and he doesn't hurt the picture. But he does make our Jaynie work overtime keeping the film lively.
Joan Blondell is enjoyable in one of her early films as a character actress, having been quite a sexy blonde lead herself in the 1930's and 1940's. Betsy Drake (best known as one of Cary Grant's wives) is an appealing ingenue sort as the real girlfriend of "Lover Doll" Randall who must stand by and watch the media promote Jayne and Tony as one of the great love stories of the era. The movie is hilarious from the opening credits to the final minute - but above all, this is a perfect showcase for the special talents of Miss Jayne Mansfield!!
SHERIFF OF FRACTURED JAW - directed by the great Raoul Walsh, this color comic western casts Jayne as a saloon owner who helps Englishman Kenneth More adapt to life in the Old West and his new position as sheriff. More is fairly forgotten today but in the 1950's he was considered a potential heir to Laurence Oliver's throne as England's leading actor so being cast opposite him was rather prestigious for Jayne, who tones down her sex kitten act (although those tight period dresses make her look maybe bustier than ever even if there is no hint of clevage.) This is the sort of pleasant, somewhat unmemorable movie many stars make over and over. This 1959 release unexpectedly proved the end of Jayne's glory days in Hollywood, although she would remained famous until her death in 1967 and was considered a big star at least until 1962. She was sadly wasted in scores of "B" and "D" films in the 1960's but she likely will always remain a legend due to her pair of beauties - THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT and WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER.