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U.S., 1956
Directed by Frank Tashlin
Starring Jayne Mansfield, Tom Ewell, Edmond O’Brien
Approx. 98 min. DCP.

"If that's a girl, then I don't know what my sister is!" Back from the pen, former King of the jukeboxes Edmond O'Brien's bombastic Marty "Fats" Murdock (formerly Marty "Slim" Murdock) takes a break from sentimental viewings of home movies of his arrests to assign down-and-out PR man Tom Ewell (Marilyn Monroe's SEVEN YEAR ITCH foil) his toughest job: make Marty's moll Jayne Mansfield a star! ("How can I marry a nobody?") Only, aside from her physical assets — which can cause glasses to crack, ice to melt, and milk to boil — Mansfield at first seems to have no talent, especially alongside chart-busting acts like Little Richard, Gene Vincent (watch them drop those caps), The Platters, Fats Domino, and Julie London ("Cry Me a River"). But celebrity — and love? — do ensue when her one unique talent is discovered (not what you think). Hilarious satire of — you name it — from the unique mind of writer/director Frank Tashlin ("There's nothing in the world to me that's funnier than big breasts"), former Warner Bros. cartoon animator/director, who "took the outrageous, impossible humor of cartoons and connected it humanly to live action" (Peter Bogdanovich), along with a jaundiced view of 50s style icons, aided here by terrific comic turns from O'Brien, Ewell and, yes, Mansfield — who out-Monroes Monroe in a tour de farce performance. "Garish, vulgar, excessive, chintzy, and blatantly exploitative — Tashlin imbues a cartoon satire of Elvis and Marilyn (or rather, of their clones) with a total atomic jukebox drive-in look. The real title should be something like The Radioactive Suburb, Tailfins over Disneyland, or Saturday Night on Mars." – J. Hoberman. "More than a good film, more than a funny film, more than an excellent parody; it is a kind of masterpiece of the’s more beautiful and more successful each time you see it.” – François Truffaut.

“In her first Fox outing, THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT, Mansfield as Jerri Jordan, a would-be celebrity with no observable talent other than her anatomy, makes her entrance framed in a doorway and dressed in a blazing white outfit, an homage to Lana Turner’s entrance in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. When Jerri, in a form-fitting black dress, walks down a street carrying two milk bottles in front of her breasts, she shatters the glasses of male onlookers, melts ice, and causes milk bottles to have orgasmic explosions. When at the request of her agent she walks through nightclubs in a clinging, flaming-red gown, all heads turn. With her hourglass body, wiggling walk, cinched waist, and protruding, almost weaponized breasts Jayne/Jerri is being objectified as a knockout bimbo, a cartoon figure constructed for the viewing pleasure of a repressed culture. Written and directed with low-class, adolescent flair by former cartoonist Frank Tashlin, THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT is a mother-lode time capsule and a double parody: of rock music, which in 1956 was just breaking through to mainstream culture, and of the Hollywood ritual of star-making. Although there are moments in which she seems uncomfortable with her overwrought physique. Mansfield delivers as a voiceless spectacle. When she speaks, however, her image begins to crack. She’s an insecure actress whose accent, tone, and diction waver from scene to scene.”


“Tashlin's story keeps pace with a series of surprises, most notably one ingenious tonal shift that finds Tom home alone and haunted by the ghost of his dead lover as her spectral presence sings "Cry Me a River" from every corner of his barren house. Even in a world of candy-coated imagery, with a majestic frame to show it off, the director reveals human frailty lurking beneath the surface.”
– Eric Kohn, Reverse Shot

“Mansfield's performance is a charming whirlwind of '50s womanhood so exaggerated and perfect it's hard to believe it ever truly existed. In the title song, Little Richard sings, "She got a lot of what they call the most." Watching Mansfield giggle and strut and command the CinemaScope frame, who could ever argue with that?”
 – Abbey Bender, Little White Lies

– Wim Wenders

Film Forum