The Girl Can't Help It

The Girl Can't Help It is a 1956 American musical comedy film starring Jayne Mansfield in the titular role, Tom Ewell, Edmond O'Brien, Henry Jones, and Julie London. The picture was produced and directed by Frank Tashlin, with a screenplay adapted by Tashlin and Herbert Baker from an uncredited 1955 short story, "Do Re Mi" by Garson Kanin.[3] Filmed in DeLuxe Color, the production was originally intended as a vehicle for the American sex symbol Jayne Mansfield, with a satirical subplot involving teenagers and rock 'n' roll music.[4] The unintended result has been called the "most potent" celebration of rock music ever captured on film.[5]

The Girl Can't Help It
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Tashlin
Written byFrank Tashlin
Herbert Baker
Produced byFrank Tashlin
StarringTom Ewell
Jayne Mansfield
Edmond O'Brien
Henry Jones
Julie London
CinematographyLeon Shamroy
Edited byJames B. Clark
Music byBobby Troup
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • December 1, 1956 (1956-12-01) (United States)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.3 million[1]
Box office$6.2 million[2]

The original music score, including the title song performed by Little Richard, was by Bobby Troup, with an additional credit to Ray Anthony for the tune "Big Band Boogie".

Plot Edit

A slot machine mobster, Marty "Fats" Murdock, wants his blonde girlfriend, Jerri Jordan, to be a singing star, despite her seeming lack of talent. He hires alcoholic press agent Tom Miller to promote Jordan, both because of his past success with the career of singer Julie London and because he never makes sexual advances towards his female clients.

Miller sets to work by showing Jordan off around numerous night spots; his machinations arouse interest in Jordan and soon offers of contracts follow. However, Miller realizes that Jordan really just wants to be a homemaker and tries to persuade Murdock not to push Jordan into a show-business career. He thinks he's succeeded when he reveals to Murdock that Jordan's singing is so bad it shatters light bulbs, but Murdock suggests that Jordan would be perfect for a song he composed while in prison, "Rock Around the Rock Pile" (a parody of "Rock Around the Clock"). Miller reluctantly records Jordan performing the part of a prison siren in Murdock's song and heads to Chicago to promote it to Wheeler, a former mob rival of Murdock who now has a monopoly over the jukebox industry.

Suspicious of Miller's reluctance to promote Jordan and of the obvious attraction between Miller and Jordan, Murdock has his associate Mousie wiretap a phone call between the pair. Feeling pity for them, Mousie edits out the romantic portions of their conversations and convinces Murdock that their relationship is strictly business.

Drive-in advertisement from 1957

In Chicago, Wheeler is impressed by the song and Jordan's voice and offers to sign both Jordan and the songwriter. However, when Miller reveals that the songwriter is Murdock, Wheeler throws him out of his office and vows never to play the song. A furious Murdock bullies bar owners into buying jukeboxes from him instead and successfully promotes his and Jordan's song. To prevent Murdock from stealing his business, Wheeler arranges to have Murdock assassinated at the rock show where Jordan will be making her debut.

On his way to the show, Murdock confesses to Mousie that he doesn't want to marry Jordan. Mousie confesses that he altered the tape of Jordan and Miller's phone call and encourages Murdock to let Jordan marry Miller. Backstage at the show, Jordan confesses her love to Miller and they kiss. Jordan also admits that she is a talented singer, who lied because she did not want a show business career; she goes on stage and performs a song about her love for Miller. When Murdock arrives, Miller declares to him that he and Jordan are in love; the delighted Murdock surprises Miller by shaking his hand and offering to be the best man.

Before Miller and Murdock can tell Jordan the good news, Wheeler's assassins shoot at Murdock. Miller fights them off and shoves Murdock on stage to perform his song, reasoning that the assassins won't shoot Murdock in front of so many witnesses. Wheeler arrives and, impressed by the audience's response to Murdock, calls off the assassination and signs Murdock instead. The film ends with Miller and Jordan kissing on their honeymoon, as Murdock and Mousie perform on a TV show in the background.

Cast Edit

Production Edit

"Do Re Mi", a short story by Garson Kanin that had appeared in The Atlantic magazine in March 1955, was acquired by Fox. They initially assigned producer Nunnally Johnson to develop the film, but then decided to emphasize rock 'n' roll in it and, in 1956, reassigned it to director Frank Tashlin, whose background included work with music in animation. Tashlin collaborated on a new script with Herbert Baker that played up visual humor that was virtually cartoonish. Kanin did not approve of the new take on his story and requested his name be removed from the credits. Subsequently, Tashlin came up with the new title, The Girl Can't Help It.[3]

Reception Edit

The film received mixed reviews by critics. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times noted that Mansfield's performance was underwhelming, stating, "Her range, at this stage, appears restricted to a weak imitation of Marilyn Monroe."[6]

Accolades Edit

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Influence on rock music Edit

The film's influence on rock music is significant. The film reached Liverpool, England, in the early summer of 1957. The cameo performances of early rock 'n' roll stars such as Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, and Gene Vincent and His Bluecaps fascinated a 16-year-old John Lennon by showing him, for the first time, his "worshipped" American rock 'n' roll stars as living humans and thus further inspiring him to pursue his own rock 'n' roll dream.[8] On July 6, 1957, 15-year-old Paul McCartney was introduced to Lennon after the latter had performed at a village church garden party with his skiffle group The Quarrymen. McCartney demonstrated his musical prowess to Lennon by performing "Twenty Flight Rock" in a manner similar to how he had seen it played by Eddie Cochran in The Girl Can't Help It. This led to Lennon inviting McCartney to join the group. McCartney talks about the film in the documentary series The Beatles Anthology.[9]

On September 18, 1968, The Beatles interrupted recording "Birthday" at Abbey Road Studios so they could go back to Paul McCartney's house to watch the British TV premiere of the film.[10]

Also, some film buffs have pointed to Elvis Presley's famous performance of the song "Jailhouse Rock" in MGM's film of the same name (often cited as the first music video), released one year after The Girl Can't Help It, as bearing a remarkable resemblance to the theme and performance of a song called "Rock Around the Rockpile" from the earlier film. In that performance, Edmond O'Brien plays a character who seeks to escape an assassination attempt by jumping on stage and singing the lyrics, "rock, rock, rock around the rockpile," while backed up by The Ray Anthony Band wearing striped inmate uniforms. O'Brien, then 42 years old, even awkwardly attempts some of the hip-swiveling and leg motions for which Elvis had already become famous, as he had appeared already 10 times, to cumulative audiences in excess of 180 million viewers, and on national television, before and during the filming of The Girl Can't Help It, the production of which commenced in mid-September 1956. Other film buffs point to the famous acrobatic dancer and Presley contemporary, as well as MGM star, Russ Tamblyn (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), who visited Presley at his suite at the Knickerboker Hotel on the night before the filming of the "Jailhouse Rock" scene. Presley had had trouble that day at the rehearsals in interpreting what the MGM choreographer, Alex Romero, demanded of him, and Tamblyn's advice at the suite that night helped him perform the first part of that dance sequence (which, incidentally, was witnessed by the then-MGM megastar Gene Kelly). In fact, The Girl Can't Help It's producers had sought to enlist Presley, whose manager, Colonel Tom Parker, however, had demanded too much money. Two uncredited composers on The Girl Can't Help It, Hugo Friedhofer and Lionel Newman, had also composed music for the Elvis film Love Me Tender, in the same year, 1956.

Songs performed in the film Edit

  1. "The Girl Can't Help It" – Little Richard
  2. "Tempo's Tempo" – Nino Tempo
  3. "My Idea of Love" – Johnny Olenn
  4. "I Ain't Gonna Cry No More" – Johnny Olenn
  5. "Ready Teddy" – Little Richard
  6. "She's Got It" – Little Richard
  7. "Cool It Baby" – Eddie Fontaine
  8. "Cinnamon Sinner" – Teddy Randazzo and the Three Chuckles
  9. "Spread the Word" – Abbey Lincoln
  10. "Cry Me a River" – Julie London
  11. "Be-Bop-A-Lula" – Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps
  12. "Twenty Flight Rock" – Eddie Cochran
  13. "Rock Around the Rockpile" – Edmond O'Brien; Ray Anthony and his Orchestra
  14. "Rockin' Is Our Business" – The Treniers
  15. "Big Band Boogie" – Ray Anthony and his Orchestra
  16. "Blue Monday" – Fats Domino
  17. "You'll Never, Never Know" – The Platters
  18. "Ev'ry Time (It Happens)" – Jayne Mansfield (dubbed by Eileen Wilson)
  19. "Giddy Up a Ding Dong" – Freddy Bell & The Bell-Boys

References Edit

  1. ^ Solomon 1988, p. 251
  2. ^ Solomon 1988, p. 227
  3. ^ a b Landler, Edward (2016-12-02). "Sex, Race and Rock 'n' Roll". CineMontage. Retrieved 2022-04-09.
  4. ^ "The Girl Can't Help It (1956)", original print information, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Atlanta, Georgia. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  5. ^ Norman 2008, p. 98
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley (February 9, 1957). "One-Track Film". The New York Times. Retrieved 2022-09-22.
  7. ^ "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  8. ^ Norman 2008, p. 99
  9. ^ Norman 2008, p. 107
  10. ^ "BBC2 Schedule Wednesday 18th September 1968". Genome BETA Radio Times 1923–2009.

Bibliography Edit

External links Edit