The Girl Can't Help It

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Frank Tashlin

REVIEWED: 04-12-99

Starting out as a cartoon director at Warner Bros., Tashlin's later live action films bristled with the imagination of an animator. This larger-than-life Mad magazine-esqe satire on Fifties popular culture practically spills off the screen. Bursting with vivid colors, this is a Hollywood rock & roll musical in Technicolor, Cinemascope, and stereophonic sound. Gangster O'Brien wants his girlfriend Mansfield to become a singing star so she will be an important somebody and a proper wife for him. He hires down-and-out Ewell to build her career. Ewell starts falling for her as he also discovers she can't sing. Mansfield is great; the tinnier Monroe, she ripples through this live action cartoon. There is one over-the-top sequence as Mansfield walks down a street that includes an ice delivery man melting a block of ice and a man's eyeglasses shattering. As the scene ends, she enters Ewell's apartment with a glass quart of milk over each breast. Tashlin uses her as he would Porky Pig, Jerry Lewis, or any actor he worked with: as a slightly unreal cartoon character muddling through an even more unreal world. Besides Mansfield, with whom he also made the classic Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, Tashlin worked with Bob Hope, Bob Cummings, Doris Day, Danny Kaye, Jerry Lewis, and Dean Martin. An impressive array of great rock acts are featured in the film, and their performances really rip. Tashlin, however, stages them like jazz or lounge acts, and the most inspired lunatic musical moment is more a takeoff on show tune imagery than anything else. Tashlin just didn't get rock & roll, but it didn't stop him from making a great rock & roll movie.

--Louis Black

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