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The Girl Can’t Help It (1956)


Failed music agent Tom Ewell gets summoned by gangster Edmond O’Brien to make his talentless girlfriend Jayne Mansfield a famous recording star within six weeks. The eagle-eyed will spot this as the bones of the plot of Born Yesterday, a film that should have starred Marilyn Monroe (nobody looked at her screen test). And Monroe is all over this uncredited adaptation of a story by Garson Kanin (who wrote Born Yesterday), her sweetness, her love of home and of course her pneumatic looks – although the genius-IQ Mansfield is possibly larger in that department and unlike Marilyn she cannot hold a note, at least for the purposes of this story. There’s a score by Bobby Troup and (his real-life) wife Julie London looms large in Tom Ewell’s nightmares as his lost love – just as his wife did in the previous year’s Seven Year Itch, opposite Marilyn.  But it’s the opportunity to see some of the great rock ‘n’ roll acts of the time that still beckons (Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran) and director Frank Tashlin cleverly integrates a lot of the lyrics as commentary on the action; and the infamous sight gag of milk bottles in Mansfield’s hands, a typical comment by the auteur on Fifties consumerism, sexism and a tribute to his cartoonist colleagues at Warners. Written by Tashlin and Herbert Baker. Rock. And. Roll.


About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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