Marilyn Monroe was THE blonde bombshell. Jayne Mansfield was the cartoon version of Monroe, bombshell become sex bomb, with proportions so improbable she could give Barbie an inferiority complex. Her cartoon figure makes it appropriate that two of the movies here are directed by a specialist in cartoons: Frank Tashlin. In fact, this set might almost be more appropriately called the Frank Tashlin Collection.
The two Tashlin movies are The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) and Will…Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957). These are companion pieces, right down to the openings that break the fourth wall, and the latter making reference to the former. In The Girl Can’t Help It, Mansfield is the mol of gangster Edmond O’Brien, who enlists talent agent Tom Ewell to turn Mansfield into a rock star. She can’t sing, but she can emit a piercing squeal, and that’s enough to land a hit record. Mansfield, however, pines for a life of domesticity. Throughout the film are performances by Fats Domino, Little Richard and the like, all in their prime. Think of this as a more clever, more topical, less bloated version of The Blues Brothers.
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is set in the advertising world, with Tony Randall as the ad man who lands Mansfield (essentially playing herself) for a lucrative endorsement on the condition that, for her publicity purposes, he pretend to be her lover. The shots taken at television and advertising are very funny, and the dialogue is rife with quotable witticisms. The sight gags, as with the other film, are spot-on as well.
The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958), directed by Raoul Walsh, has Mansfield in a less caricatured role (she doesn’t quite have to play a live-action version of Jessica Rabbit here), but she is saddled with a deeply unconvincing accent as the saloon-owner in the Old West town of the title. To this violent place comes innocent aborad Kenneth More, English gunsmith, who despite his lack of skill with a gun becomes sheriff. That Mansfield falls for him should be adequate compensation for likely being killed. This is a genial comedy, hardly as sharp as the other two films, but plenty fun all the same.
The Girl Can’t Help It and The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw have original mono and 2.0 options (and here’s a strange thing: the latter film has a French dub in 4.0 – what gives?). The remixes have the usual pluses (richer sound) and minuses (indiscriminate surround) that these sorts of things have. Rock Hunter is in 4.0, and there is no wraparound dialogue here (but there is very little surround of any kind). There’s a bit of distortion hovering over dialogue in all three films, but it isn’t severe, especially given that the movies are fifty years old.
All three films have solid, but not perfect, transfers. The colours are strong, as are the contrasts, but there is some fluctuation going on too, so there are moments where the flesh tones shift from very healthy to a bit pale. The grain is present, but slight, and the damage is all but nonexistent (though Fractured Jaw has some scenes with noticeable dirt).
The two Tashlin movies both have superb commentaries by film historians (Toby Miller on Girl, Dana Polan on Rock Hunter). These are in-depth, wonderfully informative efforts. Girl also has an A&E Biography episode on Mansfield, while Rock Hunter has a Movietone Newsreel. All three films sport their theatrical trailers, but that’s the only feature on Fractured Jaw. In the box also is a rather lovely set of lobby cards.
Though there is a certain freak show aspect that inevitably hovers over any movie with Mansfield, these are all fine comedies, well worth seeking out.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- A&E Biography
- Movietone Newsreel
- Theatrical Trailers
- Lobby Cards