Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is a 1957 American satirical comedy film starring Jayne Mansfield and Tony Randall, with Betsy Drake, Joan Blondell, John Williams, Henry Jones, Lili Gentle, and Mickey Hargitay, and with a cameo by Groucho Marx. The film is a satire on popular fan culture, Hollywood hype, and the advertising industry, which was making millions of dollars off the growing revenue from television ads. It also takes aim at television and the reduction it caused to the size of movie theater audiences in the 1950s. The film was also known as Oh! For a Man! in the United Kingdom.
|Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?|
Film poster by Tom Chantrell
|Directed by||Frank Tashlin|
|Produced by||Frank Tashlin|
|Written by||George Axelrod|
|Based on||Rita Marlowe|
by George Axelrod
|Music by||Cyril J. Mockridge|
|Edited by||Hugh S. Fowler|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|July 29, 1957|
The film was produced and directed by Frank Tashlin, who also wrote the largely original screenplay, using little more than the title and the character of Rita Marlowe from the successful Broadway play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? by George Axelrod. The play had run from 1955 to 1956 and also starred Jayne Mansfield as Rita.
In lieu of a theme song and opening of the movie, Tashlin instead laid traditional opening credits over faux television commercials for products that failed to deliver what they promised.
From this comedic segue, the film opens on a writer for television advertising, Rockwell P. Hunter (Tony Randall), who is low on the ladder at the La Salle agency, the company where he works. With the agency set to lose its biggest account – Stay-Put Lipstick – he hatches an idea to get the perfect model and spokeswoman for Stay-Put's new line of lipstick, the famous actress with the "oh-so-kissable lips", Rita Marlowe (Jayne Mansfield).
For Rita to endorse the lipstick, however, Rock has to pretend to be her boyfriend to make her real boyfriend, Bobo Branigansky (Hargitay), the star of a TV Tarzan show, jealous. Bobo leaks the news of Rita's new romance to the tabloids and Rock Hunter is suddenly famous as Marlowe's "Lover Doll". Hunter's boss decides to leverage his employee's newfound fame, but when Hunter also gets Marlowe to agree on a television spectacular sponsored by Stay-Put, Hunter becomes the advertising firm's highest-regarded employee. Marlowe, meanwhile, is miserable; she thinks she is falling in love with Hunter, but her one real true love is the man who discovered her, George Schmidlap (Groucho Marx). Not being able to find Schmidlap, she pursues Hunter, though her Secretary "Vi" (Joan Blondell) warns her that she is playing a dangerous game. (Ironically, Blondell, who plays Mansfield's frumpy, middle-aged, all-business secretary, was herself a major movie sex symbol some 30 years before, and whose sexuality was one of the first victims of the Hays Code).
Hunter soon finds fame to be a double-edged sword, getting him what he wants, but with a price to be paid for that success. Women are crazy about him, and he has no peace of mind. Ultimately, he moves up the ladder at work, becoming company president, only to find it is not what he really wanted. Hunter confesses to his angry fiancée Jenny that he finds himself at the top of the heap without any meaning and she takes him back.
As Rita Marlowe opens her television spectacular for Stay-Put Lipstick, she is surprised by the appearance of the show's "surprise" guest star of (and the one true love of her life), George Schmidlap.
Freed from strain of advertising, Rock and Jenny retire to the country to tend a chicken farm, announcing that he has found the real living end.
|Jayne Mansfield||Rita Marlowe|
|Tony Randall||Rockwell P. Hunter|
|Betsy Drake||Jenny Wells|
|John Williams||Irving La Salle Jr.|
|Henry Jones||Henry Rufus|
|Lili Gentle||April Hunter|
|Mickey Hargitay||Bobo Branigansky|
|Groucho Marx||George Schmidlap|
|Barbara Eden||Miss Carstairs|
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? received a nomination for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy (Tony Randall) and a nomination for the Writers Guild of America, East WGA Award (Screen) for Best Written American Comedy (Frank Tashlin). The character, Rita Marlowe, is based on dumb blond stereotype epitomized by roles performed by Marilyn Monroe at the time.
The film contains joking references to several of Mansfield's other roles, including The Girl Can't Help It (1956; also directed by Tashlin), Kiss Them for Me (1957), and The Wayward Bus (1957). The book Mansfield reads in the bathtub scene is Peyton Place (1956) by Grace Metalious, which became a feature film and a popular TV series that is claimed to be the forerunner of primetime soap operas. The buxom characters in the book were claimed to have been inspired by Mansfield.
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is known as Mansfield's "signature film", and is in a package called "The Jayne Mansfield Collection" along with The Girl Can't Help It (1956) and The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958).
- Solomon, p. 251
- Solomon, p. 227
- Emily Toth; Inside Peyton Place: The Life of Grace Metalious; page 144; University Press of Mississippi; 200