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Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? [Masters of Cinema] [Blu-ray] [Edizione: Regno Unito]
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Unsold on celebrity? Congested with consumption? Addled by status? You're in The World, kiddo, brought to you by Frank Tashlin "Because Someone's Got to Live in It." And now a brief word on our latest fine product, the one that gives you the answer to that nagging question: Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Ladies and gentlemen, no-one does straight-and-narrow quite like Tony Randall, and we guarantee his turn as lovable ad-man Rockwell P. Hunter will leave you in so many stitches you'll be just silly with sc-HAH-rtissue! And speaking of tissue: once you see Jayne Mansfield bob and weave as starlet Rita Marlowe, the ambidextrous angel who takes Hunter under her "wings" to launch his agency into the $trato$phere, you too will coo her trademark "ooo"! But that's not all! You'll also get Ms. Joan Blondell, star of Nightmare Alley and of Opening Night, who rounds out the package as Ms. Marlowe's assistant and handler as they say in Paris, quel package! Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? proves that love CAN be manufactured (how else could we get our Blu-rays in your hands??), and finds Frank Tashlin doing what he did better than everyone else: Frank Tashlin'!!! Trust us when we say we here at The Masters of Cinema Series are simply over-the-moon to be presenting Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? for the first time on Blu-ray anywhere on the planet. - Gorgeous high-definition transfer of the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio - New and exclusive video introduction to the film by director Joe Dante (Gremlins 1 & 2, InnerSpace, Looney Tunes: Back in Action) - Vintage Movietone short which captures Jayne Mansfield on tour promoting the film - Alternate music & effects track with a different musical score for the opening of the picture and other 'temporary' effects-placement - Original theatrical trailer - Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired - 44-page booklet featuring two new essays by film writer David Cairns, and an exclusive 2003 interview about the film with Tony Randall conducted by Ethan DeSeife
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Mansfield's first film for Fox (and the first film in this collection) is/was The Girl Can't Help It (1956) with Tom Ewell and Edmond O'Brien. In the film she played Jerri Jordan, a not-so-ditzy blonde bombshell who is forced into a career by her controlling boyfriend, Fats Murdock (O'Brien), but who falls in love with her manager, Tom Miller (Ewell). The DeLuxe colored, Cinemascope extravaganza was intended as a star vehicle for Mansfield with the subplot being a satirical parody of Rock-n-Roll music. Several then famous Rock-n-Roll and R&B singers make cameo appearances, including Julie London, Ray Anthony, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Gene Vincent among others. The resulting film received excellent reviews and made over $9.5 million in the United States in 1956. While Mansfield's popularity grew, she had yet to succeed the star status of Marilyn Monroe, whose comeback movie Bus Stop (1956) released that same year, made over $11 million.
We next have the comedy farce Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? from 1957, which teams Ms. Mansfield with Tony Randall, Joan Blondell, Betsy Drake, and her then boyfriend (and future husband) Mickey Hargitay. It is a film version of her 1955 Broadway hit, and she reprises her role of Rita Marlowe, a self-centered film siren, who uses Rockwell "Rock" Hunter (Randall) as a ploy to make her boyfriend Bobo Branigansky (Hargitay) jealous and also to forget her true love, actor George Schmidlap (Groucho Marx). The film differs from the play version, being more of a parody of advertising agencies rather than a satire of Hollywood as initially intended. The film drew equally impressive reviews and made a profit of over $8 million in ticket receipts.
Lastly, we have the Western spoof The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, which was shot and released in foreign countries in 1958, but which was not released in the U.S. until 1959. This film can be called one of Mansfield's first "loan out" pictures. The film was shot on location in Spain and casts Mansfield as Kate, the owner of a saloon, who falls in love with gun salesman, Jonathan Tibbs (Kenneth More). While still a big production, this is the weakest installment within The Jayne Mansfield Collection in my opinion. She is not the star of the film, although she receives top billing with Kenneth More. By 1958, Fox had become disinterested in Mansfield, especially after the failure of Kiss Them for Me the previous year. Therefore, instead of spending time and money on her movies, they shipped her overseas to make European comedies and melodramas that didn't showcase her abilities as well as her earlier efforts until her contract expired in 1962.
The Jayne Mansfield Collection attempts to capture the "phenomenon" that was Jayne Mansfield, but it barely scratches the surface. While each film manages to entertain me, I can't help but notice how they could've been better. These films are pure camp, a bit corny to be clearer. But hey, who said Jayne Mansfield could act? She could though; just check out The Wayward Bus (1957) and Too Hot to Handle (1960), two films that could've been in this set. Though some may disagree, Mansfield was more of a celebrity than a true film star, more of an eye-catching publicity seeker than an actress. Audiences didn't buy her; and Hollywood, who adored her publicity-craving attitude in the beginning, began to loath her by the late 1950s. Jayne Mansfield did more and more risqué publicity stunts as her film career diminished, but what she didn't seem to realize was that this "negative" exposure was hurting her chances more than it was helping them. Her annual appearances in Playboy magazine from 1957 to 1964 didn't help much either, it just should her cheapness in a way. Around the 1956 to 1957 era, she was dubbed "The Next Marilyn Monroe", but by 1960, she was known as "The Working Man's Marilyn" and "The Cartoon Marilyn".
Jayne Mansfield is an icon, but more for pop culture fanatics. She is not necessarily a "legend", but as I've said, she's a piece of pop culture in every sense of the term. She will remain in the memory of those who like over-the-top cartoonish drama queens. She'll be remembered as a sex kitten with sex appeal that runs for miles, but also as a woman who flaunted it a bit too much. Historians will also remember her tragic death in a car crash in June 1967 at age 34. She's underrated, not as an actress, but as a symbol of the 1950s. Despite her flaws, I'd agree that Jayne Mansfield was the biggest competition to Marilyn Monroe's superstar status, although she never achieved the same level of fame as Monroe obtained during her lifetime nor has she since her demise.
The earliest film is the set is 1955's "The Girl Can't Help It." This film is a gem, both for Jayne's performance (not to mention her looks) and the musical performances by a great many rock and pop singers of the time. Tom Ewell co-stars as Tom Miller, a down-on-his-luck talent agent who's enlisted by mobster Marty "Fats" Murdoch (Edmond O'Brien) to make a musical star of his bride-to-be, Jerri Jordan (Ms. Mansfield) - in just six weeks time! (Fats was once a big man in the illegal slot machine business, and he can't lower himself to marry a nobody.)
So, Tom goes out to different clubs and gets Jerri to parade around, showing off her hourglass figure to the club's owners - and they definitely pay attention! - to get her some exposure. Along the way, we're treated to performances by the likes of Little Richard, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Abbey Lincoln, Ray Anthony, Eddie Fontaine, Eddie Cochrane, the Platters and more. Perhaps the most remarkable musical treat comes to us from the beautiful Julie London, who sings her big hit "Cry Me A River" in a number of different outfits and locations, as Tom tries to forget his past relationship with her.
Henry Jones also co-starred in "Girl Can't Help It" as Fats' right hand man Mousie, but he plays a larger role in the next film, "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" - another one not to miss. Jayne Mansfield reprises the roll she played very successfully on Broadway for the 1957 film - that of a bombshell movie star very like herself, here with the name of Rita Marlowe. Tony Randall co-stars as Rockwell Hunter, an advertising man working on the Stay Put lipstick campaign.
When his boss (Jones) tells him that the firm may soon lose the Stay Put account, Rock dreams up the idea of getting Rita Marlowe to endorse it. As it happens, she's in town to get away from her boyfriend, Bobo Branigansky (played by Mansfield real life husband, Mickey Hargitay) with whom she's had a fight, and decides to get even with him by pretending to be in love with the next man who happens to come to her - which happens to be Rock, trying to get her endorsement.
Mayhem of course ensues as Rock is dubbed "Lover Doll" and has to put up with the charade in order to get the endorement. Mansfield and Randall play their parts very well, ably supported by Jones, John Williams as the ad agency's president and John Blondell (who gets a big scene of her own) as Rita's assistant. There's even a very special cameo appearance at the end to play the part of Rita's one true love, Georgie Schmidlap.
It's interesting to note that references are made in this film to three other Mansfield films - "Girl Can't Help It" from the previous year, plus "The Wayward Bus" and "Kiss Them For Me" of the same year - with Rita Marlowe being the star of them this time!
The third film in the set is like a fish out of water compared to the two others. While the first two are contemporary in their setting and were directed by Frank Tashlin, "The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw"(1958) takes place in the Wild West and was directed by Raoul Walsh. Kenneth More co-stars opposite Jayne as (appropriately enough) a fish out of water - or rather, an English gentleman, Jonathan Tibbs, who comes to the frontier town of Fractured Jaw to sell guns produced by his family's arms manufacturing firm. The town has no sheriff as the previous ones have all gotten killed and understandably nobody wants the job. When Tibbs tells the mayor (played by the wonderful Henry Hull) to just appoint somebody without taking no for an answer, the mayor decides to appoint Tibbs himself!
Jayne's character in the film is Kate, the owner of the local saloon/hotel who's a formidable woman and the closest thing the town has to a sheriff. Looking more like Marilyn Monroe here than to herself in the other two films, Kate does take off her very conservative outfit a couple of times to appear in a couple of saucy musical numbers in the saloon.
"Sheriff" is the weakest film in the set, but watching it was still a very amiable way to pass the time.
As for the film transfers, all are at the 2.35:1 Cinemascope ratio and are enhanced for widescreen sets. "Girl Can't Help It" looks fabulous, with a sharp picture and vibrant, deep colors. "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" is equally colorful, but to my eyes the picture looked a bit softer. "The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw" looks reasonably good, though as it was filmed on location outdoors, it can't come close to being as colorful as the other two.
The main extra feature comes on the first disc: the Biography channel program, "Jayne Mansfield: Blonde Ambition." Hers was a tragic story, not just due to her untimely death at the age of 34 but because she ruined her life with drugs and alcohol. The program traces her life from her early days as a brunette to her successes as a blonde on Broadway and in Hollywood and Las Vegas - and then to the days of cheap films and substance abuse, it all coming to an end late one night in a car crash outside New Orleans. (All three people in the front seat were killed, but luckily her three children in the back, including current actress Mariska Hargitay, were not seriously hurt.) Among those interviewed are her first and second husbands Paul Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay, oldest daughter Jayne Marie plus Hugh Hefner talking about Jayne's relationship with Playboy. An interesting tidbit mentioned is that Mansfield was offered the part of Ginger, Tina Louise's character on "Gilligan's Island" - but she turned it down because she considered herself a film actress and television work was apparently beneath her.
The second disc also has a short Fox Movietone newsreel of Mansfield on a visit to Washington, D.C. There are also trailers for the Jayne Mansfield Collection, and while "Girl Can't Help It" and "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" discs each have the trailer for the other film, the trailer for the third film in the set is for that of "Kiss Them For Me" (Mansfield's film with Cary Grant) and not for "The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw." Perhaps the film with Grant was to be in the set - until someone at Fox noticed that it had already been released on DVD! The trailer for "Fractured Jaw" is on the disc for that film, but oddly enough it doesn't contain any scenes from the movie - just some graphics with a soundtrack telling us how very funny this film is (or is supposed to be).
The first two films also have commentary tracks by NYU professor Toby Miller ("Girl Can't Help It") and Dana Polan ("Rock Hunter"). I've only listened to part of the commentary by Mr. Polan, and while it is very academic, he does give some interesting insights of how the film fit in with and commented on American society in the 1950s.
As for the package, it comes in a nice cardboard case with each film in its own standard size DVD case (unlike the Fox Horror Classics collection, which come in slimline cases). A set of 12 black and white lobby cards, measuring 4.5 x 6 inches, are included in a separate envelope - a nice addition
All in all, the Jayne Mansfield Collection is very worth having if you're a fan of the star or of 1950s comedies. The Biography episode is a big plus, too, and one thing I won't soon forget is the way that Mickey Hargitay became very emotional and on the verge of tears when talking about his last phone call with Jayne the night she died. Decades later, it seems clear that he is still very much in love with her. After seeing these films, you may be a little in love with her, too.
"The Girl Can't Help It"-This is the crown jewels of the set. My only quibble with the film is that the story intrudes at times with terrific performances by pioneering rock 'n' roll legends. Not only doesn't director Frank Tashlin condescend to the ascendant music craze but be treats it reverently giving it the full color Cinemascope treatment. Essential for the performances by Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, and The Platters. Fats Domino's rendition of "Blue Monday" is absolutely sublime. Terrific performance by chanteuse Julie London as well. As for the plot it's aces as well. Tashlin's film is kind of a screwball comedy that sends up the music industry and gangster films that seems at times to be informed by his work on the Warner Brothers animated films. Mansfield defies stereotype in her role as gangster moll without the singing ability that she's being groomed for. Edmond O'Brien is an absolute hoot in his sendup of tough-talking gangsters. Five stars.
"Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter"-Funny but not particularly biting satire of the ad industry. Tony Randall is engaging as the everyman adman who through a series of events becomes cause celebrae. Mansfield, as a famous Hollywood starlet, delivers a not to veiled sendup of Monroe with middling results. Ingenious Groucho Marx cameo. Some chuckles but not all it could have been. Four stars.
"The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw"-As the saloon keeper, Mansfield plays down her sexpot image somewhat, but this is really a supporting role for her. The film's real star is Kenneth More as the British gentleman gunsmith who through a series of misunderstandings is foisted into the job of sheriff of a lawless Western town. Though pluck or just dumb luck, the Brit succeeds. Breezy comedy that entertains but it's best appreciated with less heightened expectations. Four stars.
This collection is nice. A lot of Mansfield fans have been waiting for "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" and "The Girl Can't Help It" to be realeased on DVD. The one disappointment is the missing movies. Jayne's career included some, albeit, low budget and explotation films, but her career could be better represented. This set would have been more complete with the addition of "Kiss Them For Me", "The Wayward Bus" and "It Happened in Athens". At least that would logically keep on track with her career and offer the viewer a better sampling of her tantalizing, fabulous persona. Unfortunately, this set does limit her as an actress, just has Hollywood did. But Jayne is a treat, in any size portion!