The Girl Can't Help It
The Girl Can't Help It is a 1956 musical comedy 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 novel, Do Re Mi by Garson Kanin. 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. The unintended result has been called the "most potent" celebration of rock music ever captured on film.
|The Girl Can't Help It|
|Directed by||Frank Tashlin|
|Produced by||Frank Tashlin|
|Written by||Frank Tashlin|
|Music by||Bobby Troup|
|Edited by||James B. Clark|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
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". Tom Ewell had portrayed Marilyn Monroe's leading man in The Seven Year Itch the previous year.
A slot machine mobster, Marty "Fats" Murdock (Edmond O'Brien), wants his blonde girlfriend, Jerri Jordan (Jayne Mansfield), to be a singing star, despite her seeming lack of talent. He hires alcoholic press agent Tom Miller (Tom Ewell) to promote Jordan, both because of his past success with the career of singer Julie London (a fiction of the script) 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 (John Emery), 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 (Henry Jones) 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.
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.
- Tom Ewell as Tom Miller
- Jayne Mansfield as Jerri Jordan
- Edmond O'Brien as Fats Murdock
- Julie London as Herself
- Ray Anthony as Himself
- Barry Gordon as Barry the paperboy
- Henry Jones as Mousie
- John Emery as Wheeler
- Juanita Moore as Hilda
- Fats Domino as Himself
- Little Richard as Himself
- Eddie Cochran as Himself
- The Platters as Themselves
- Gene Vincent as Himself
- The Treniers as Themselves
- Eddie Fontaine as Himself
- The Chuckles as Themselves
- Abbey Lincoln as Herself
- Johnny Olenn as Himself
- Nino Tempo as Himself
The film was not received well by critics. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times noted that Jayne Mansfield's performance was underwhelming, stating, “Her range, at this stage, appears restricted to a weak imitation of Marilyn Monroe”.
Influence on rock music
The movie'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. 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 movie in the documentary series The Beatles Anthology.
Also, some film buffs have pointed to Elvis Presley's famous performance of the song "Jailhouse Rock" in MGM's movie 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 movie. 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 became 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 classic movie, Love Me Tender, in the same year, 1956.
Songs performed in the movie
- "The Girl Can't Help It" – Little Richard
- "Tempo's Tempo" – Nino Tempo
- "My Idea of Love" – Johnny Olenn
- "I Ain't Gonna Cry No More" – Johnny Olenn
- "Ready Teddy" – Little Richard
- "She's Got It" – Little Richard
- "Cool It Baby" – Eddie Fontaine
- "Cinnamon Sinner" – Teddy Randazzo and the Three Chuckles
- "Spread the Word" – Abbey Lincoln
- "Cry Me a River" – Julie London
- "Be-Bop-A-Lula" – Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps
- "Twenty Flight Rock" – Eddie Cochran
- "Rock Around the Rockpile" – Edmond O'Brien; Ray Anthony and his Orchestra
- "Rockin' Is Our Business" – The Treniers
- "Big Band Boogie" – Ray Anthony and his Orchestra
- "Blue Monday" – Fats Domino
- "You'll Never, Never Know" – The Platters
- "Ev'ry Time (It Happens)" – Jayne Mansfield (dubbed by Eileen Wilson)
- "Giddy Up a Ding Dong" – Freddy Bell & The Bell-Boys
- Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p251
- Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p227
- "The Girl Can't Help It (1956)", original print information, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Atlanta, Georgia. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
- Norman, Philip (2008). John Lennon: The Life. Doubleday Canada. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-385-66100-3.
- "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
- Norman (2008), p. 99.
- Norman (2008), p. 107.
- "BBC2 Schedule Wednesday 18th September 1968". Genome BETA Radio Times 1923 - 2009.