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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Musical > Gangster > Rock Music > Western > Jayne Mansfield Collection (The Girl Can't Help It / The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw / Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?) (Fox)

The Jayne Mansfield Collection (Fox)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+/B- on Hunter     Extras: B     Films:

 

 

The Girl Can’t Help It (1956)     B

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)     B+

The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw (1958)     D

 

 

Jayne Mansfield was one of the big sex symbols of her time and previously, we have looked at some of her Film Noir work (often in England) and sexy films (like Promises, Promises), but her most famous, largest productions happened at 20th Century Fox and they went all out for her.  Having the top sex symbol at the time was a big deal for all the studios, and when the much smaller (at the time) Columbia Pictures landed Rita Hayward, the big studios went out of their way to make sure that did not happen again.  With the big success of Marilyn Monroe, Fox jumped at Mansfield and these films are the particular result of that sex star battle.

 

When so many Rock N Roll music movies were being shot in black and white and in narrow-vision (1.33 – 1.85 X 1 framing), The Girl Can’t Help It went all out with DeLuxe color, CinemaScope and maybe the greatest collection of Stars in the early days of the genre ever assembled.  Mansfield plays a gangster’s moll who is about to find herself in the middle of a gang war over jukeboxes!  He guy has one idea and his competitor another, but her guy believes that he can turn her into the next singing star and hires a talent agent (Tom Ewell) to transform her.

 

Instead, Frank Tashlin’s crazy comedy has her causing men of all ages (even a very young Barry Gordon when he was a child star, on the way to a long career as a distinctive character actor) as her arrival shakes up the men all around her.  Little Richard performs several classics, including the iconic title song and the film also offers unforgettable performances by giant Rock acts like The Platters, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Ray Anthony, The Trenliers, Eddie Fontaine, Julie London and many more.  It is a remarkable film that deserves the reputation it has.  Henry Jones also stars.

 

Tashlin took a darker comic turn with Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, based on the play about Hollywood, but reset in the world of New York advertising.  Can the title character (Tony Randall in one of his greatest performances) become a big hit with is bosses to keep his job and make it big once and for all.  His daughter loves the big movie star Rita Marlowe (a combination of Monroe and Mansfield) and he could care less, until he sees her and sees her as the next star connected to tacking Stay-Put brand products like glow-in-the-dark lipstick (so “he” can always find “you” in the dark.  The film loves commercialism and also shows its darkest, more horrific side.  The film is about the madness of commodifcation of everything and how TV plays into this, beginning with a struggle between early TV and big-screen movies.

 

The film opens with Randall talking to the audience as if reintroducing color and widescreen, then a set of spoofs of TV commercials kick in.  Everything the products promise go wrong, always an issue when ads were done live, but echoing the likes of the mythical up to no good car salesman.  Media has not changed this; it has just added a candy coating.  Henry Jones is back, as well as the actor John Williams and the great Joan Blondell.  It is an often brilliant, influential comedy that may be one of the first explicitly dark ones Hollywood ever produced, but is a marvel to watch for all kinds of reasons.

 

In those films, Mansfield proved she could act and definitely established that when she landed the first stage version of Rock Hunter, with Tashlin knowing exactly what to do with her.  However, the solid journeyman director Raoul Walsh did not fare as well with the supposed Western spoof The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw, a terrible misstep that helped kill her A-list career.  Kenneth More, Robert Morley and Bruce Cabot also star in this mess about funny stereotypical “Indians” crossing boundaries with each other and More falls in love with Mansfield’s saloon singer owner.  The film has dated very badly and one wonders if it ever was funny.  Post-Blazing Saddles (reviewed elsewhere on this site), it is really bad.

 

Connie Francis sings all Mansfield’s parts and never even attempts to match her Southern accent.  The sets are good and costumes not bad, but it has all dated in a way Walsh had not intended.  The British actors only make the affair odder, but worst of all is how it just drags on.  Think of it as Bus Stop with no point.  For completists only.

 

 

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 CinemaScope frame for each film is not bad, but not spectacular and all have their flat moments.  More work needs to be done on all of these for HD, with some moments looking a bit dulled color wise, which are very average.  You can also see color turning on and off in scene changes.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is better than the Dolby Mono on all the films, except Rock Hunter, which has a Dolby 4.0 mix that recaptures the 4-track magnetic stereo off the film’s original theatrical release decently.  Odder still, Fractured Jaw has 4.0 French Dolby, but only 2.0 English Stereo, so some tracks seem to have been lost for good.

 

Extras include trailers and illustrated pullout with brief essay by Sylvia Stoddard for each film, the A&E Biography segment on Mansfield and solid, informative Toby Miller audio commentary on The Girl Can’t Help It and Movietone Newsreel on Mansfield, plus stunning audio commentary by Dana Polan on Rock Hunter.  The box also comes with a nice envelope of replica lobby cars.  The factual extras are of scholarly quality and very referential overall.  Fox and Warner have more Mansfield in their vaults and we hope to see all of it, whether she has her clothes on or not.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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