Starring: Jayne Mansfield, Tom Ewell, Edmond O’Brien
Director: Frank Tashlin
You won’t find many Jayne Mansfield movies in academic lists of classic films. Partly because she didn’t make very many before she died in a car accident, and partly because her films are not considered very high brow. Many people felt that she was the poor man’s Marilyn Monroe and that she was an unashamed publicity hound. She kind of was those things, and yet there is so much more to the her too. She sent up the blonde bombshell image that was so much a part of Hollywood, even from it’s earliest days, and she was also a smart business woman. Sadly, like many Hollywood blonde, her career and her life was short, but glittering.
In The Girl Can’t Help It, Mansfield plays Jerri, a beautiful girl who’s gangster boyfriend (O’Brien) wants her to be a star. Amusingly, and unlike the actress herself, Jerri has a desire to be a homemaker and prefers cooking to singing. Her boyfriend hires Tom (Miller), a struggling PR agent, to make her a star. But as they spend time together, Tom realises that Jerri will never be happy as a singer, and also that he’s falling for the kind heart behind the glamour.
On the way to making her big, many big names of the time drop in for a song, including Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Platters and more.
It’s a charming film, in which Mansfield makes fun of her star persona and also skewers the idea of the blonde bombshell as a whole. The film makes the point that while men fall for the glamorous outside, they still want an old fashioned woman on the inside, or that the way to a mans heart is still through the stomach!
Much like Marilyn, there’s something about Mansfield that’s simply a pleasure to watch. She’s funny, gorgeous and warm-hearted, and you want to see what scrape she’ll get into next, you want to see her get the good guy in the end, the one who understands her. It’s a light film, with a light heart, and while it’s not a game changer, it shows the more knowing side of the 50’s, the side that saw through the fluff and glamour of Hollywood, but loved it anyway.
It’s also got a pretty good soundtrack. It’s a classic in my book.
See It If: you love a light hearted 50’s film where the beautiful girl gets the guy in the end, but takes you for a few laughs along the way. Lovely.