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The Jayne Mansfield Collection [discussion thread] (1 Viewer)

Caproni

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I know there's a thread already out there discussing the Jayne Mansfield Collection, but its like 15 years old, so I figured it would be suitable to start a new one to give my own insights (I assumed that those posters in the older thread might not even post here anymore).

Despite the seemingly never-ending parade of buxom peroxide blondes in the 1950s, Jayne Mansfield was Marilyn Monroe's only real competition. Mansfield had become an overnight Broadway sensation in 1955, and she was snatched up by 20th Century-Fox in 1956 as a potential "threat" to the increasingly temperamental Monroe. At the time, Monroe was studying at the Actors Studio in New York, and was on suspension from Fox after refusing multiple "dumb blonde" roles. In the meantime, Fox decided to promote Mansfield as another Monroe. They advertised her as "Marilyn Monroe king-sized" and cranked up the publicity machine.

This collection contains three of Mansfield's films from that brief period in the late 1950s where she was given the star treatment, and threatened to take over Monroe's crown as the undisputed Queen of Glamour. The Girl Can't Help It (1956), her first film for Fox and also her first star vehicle, is easily the best rock-n-roll movie musical ever put on film. In the film, Mansfield plays Jerri Jordan, a seemingly untalented young woman who is forced by her gangster boyfriend, Fats (Edmond O'Brien), into a glamorous career as a songstress. In the process of her career-build-up, however, she falls in love with her talent agent, Tom Miller (Tom Ewell). The movie crams practically every big-name in rock-n-roll music into the picture, with the exception of Elvis. It's a brightly-colored, fun-filled 99 minutes, and it was the perfect vehicle to showcase Fox's "new find" in Mansfield to mainstream movie-going public. Tom Ewell had played Monroe's befuddled leading man in The Seven Year Itch (1955), and was cast specifically to "cash in" on that recognition. (Ewell had also starred in The Lieutenant Wore Skirts, a reversal-of-the-sexes comedy co-starring another Monroe-esque by name of Sheree North.)

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) was the highly anticipated movie version of Mansfield's Broadway triumph that had made her a star. Aside from the title and Mansfield's character, fictional movie siren Rita Marlowe, little else from the stage production was brought into the film. The plot was almost entirely reworked: Instead of being a send-up of Hollywood, the movie takes its stabs at the advertisement business. Tony Randall plays Rockwell P. Hunter, a goofball of a man who is trying desperately to climb the ladder and make it big as a TV commercial advertiser. Betsy Drake, Joan Blondell, Henry Jones, and others supply a healthy dose of support in their respective roles. Mansfield and Randall share a good on-screen chemistry, and it's a shame that the two of them never made another movie together. They could've potentially morphed into an exciting on-screen duo. Frank Tashlin, who had directed The Girl Can't Help It, had taken over the duties of translating Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? onto the silver screen, and he even added a bit part for Mansfield's muscular boyfriend, former "Mr. Universe" Mickey Hargitay. The end result is a delightfully satirical look at the old-fashioned way of TV advertisement.

This brings us to the final film in the collection, The Sheriff of Fracture Jaw (1958), which Mansfield shot in Spain. It's basically a precursor to the "Spaghetti Westerns" that cluttered the genre in the 1960s and 1970s. However, it's a spoof of the Western genre, where Mansfield plays a no-nonsense saloon singer named Kate, who falls in love with an "everyman" Englishman played by British actor Kenneth More. She sings three songs in the film: "In the Valley of Love", "If the San Francisco Hills Could Only Talk", and "Strolling Down the Lane with Bill". Although Mansfield was a quite capable singer (she later earned $25,000 a week doing just that in her "House of Love" show she did in Las Vegas in 1958), her singing voice in the film was dubbed by popular songstress Connie Francis. Mansfield seems a little out of place in the film, which can basically be boiled down to the silliness of the execution. The story isn't too bad, but her no-nonsense character seems to good against her nature here.

Over the years, I've went back and forth over whether I view The Girl Can't Help It or Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? as Mansfield's "best" or "signature" film. For the longest, I preferred the latter, but with my most recent viewing, I think I've shifted towards the former. They're both exceptionally good over-the-top comedies, which is the precise environment Mansfield needed in order to succeed. She excelled in that outrageous-type of humor (playwright George Axelrod said Mansfield was "actually a piece of pop art" because she was "10 years ahead of her time"). The Girl Can't Help It can stand-alone as the perfect embodiment of an Old Hollywood showcase of rock-n-roll music, while Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? can stand firm as Mansfield's way of immortalizing the role/caricature she made famous in the mid-to-late-1950s.

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw is definitely the weakest film of the trio, but one wonders: What other Jayne Mansfield movies could've been included? Her reign as an A-list star was particularly short-lived. Aside from these films included here, she made only two other mainstream movies during her prime: The Wayward Bus (1957), a film version of the John Steinbeck novel where she her strongest on-screen portrayal as ex-stripper Camille Oakes, and Kiss Them for Me (1957), the ill-fated Cary Grant comedy where she plays second fiddle to fashion model Suzy Parker. Neither of those two films were big box office hits in their time, with the latter essentially credited for ending Mansfield's tenure as a would-be heavyweight for 20th Century-Fox and successor to Monroe. The Wayward Bus has been tied up in legal lingo for decades after Steinbeck's widow (or whomever) refused to allow any prints be released because they were dissatisfied with the film, so it couldn't have been included anyway. One speculates that the head-honchos didn't want The Wayward Bus in this collection because it's a departure for Mansfield away from her blonde bombshell image, and because the movie was in black-and-white instead of color.

The Jayne Mansfield Collection is a good collection for the pop icon. Anyone own it? What's your favorite movie?


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RBailey

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THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT is my favorite mainly due to the ending and Edmond O'Brien as you've never seen him before. No spoiler here if you've not seen it. Hilarious.
 

Beckford

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As far as I'm concerned, the best movie Jayne Mansfield ever made was the little film noir "The Burglar", a black & white indie turned out in '55 (prior to her big 20th Century Fox buildup). Top-billed was Dan Duryea, somewhat weathered but as skillful and charismatic as ever. He's a down on his luck con-men going for one last big score with a dysfunctional little gang of whom Mansfield is the most loyal. Her performance is fine -commendably nuanced and ultimately quite sympathetic. Director is the talented Paul Wendkos, who also helmed the terrific Darren McGavin noir "The Case Against Brooklyn".
Columbia picked up "The Burglar" for distribution in '57, by which time Mansfield was a highly marketable figure. Also prominent in the picture is the intriguing Martha Vickers, who'd sizzled her way around Bogart a decade earlier playing Bacall's wild sister in "The Big Sleep". She, too, delivers nicely in "The Burglar" The film didn't make much of box-office splash but over the years has become something of a cult favorite. It was part of the TCM Film Noir Classics III DVD set released several years back. But I'd love to see a solo Blu-Ray release.
 

Caproni

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The excellent The Wayward Bus was eventually released by Twilight Time.
The Wayward Bus definitely offers us Jayne's finest on-screen portrayal, and I'd argue that she was at her most beautiful in that film as well. Perhaps it was the black-and-white cinematography or the subtlety of her performance, but I thought she looked exceptionally well in that film.

Look at these stills: Wasn't she stunning?

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the-wayward-bus-1957-shutterstock-editorial-5877665b.jpg
 

Caproni

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...as well as WSSRH ...
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Her daughter managed to keep a steady job in TV ...
Considering I've already got Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? within the Jayne Mansfield Collection, I don't necessarily see any reason I'd need the Blu-ray edition. The DVD copy I've got is crisp and clear, and I'm happy with it.
The excellent The Wayward Bus was eventually released by Twilight Time.
I'd like to have The Wayward Bus on Blu-ray, however. It's very pricy online right now, though, so it might have the wait a little while.
 

Caproni

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As far as I'm concerned, the best movie Jayne Mansfield ever made was the little film noir "The Burglar", a black & white indie turned out in '55 (prior to her big 20th Century Fox buildup). Top-billed was Dan Duryea, somewhat weathered but as skillful and charismatic as ever. He's a down on his luck con-men going for one last big score with a dysfunctional little gang of whom Mansfield is the most loyal. Her performance is fine -commendably nuanced and ultimately quite sympathetic. Director is the talented Paul Wendkos, who also helmed the terrific Darren McGavin noir "The Case Against Brooklyn".
Columbia picked up "The Burglar" for distribution in '57, by which time Mansfield was a highly marketable figure. Also prominent in the picture is the intriguing Martha Vickers, who'd sizzled her way around Bogart a decade earlier playing Bacall's wild sister in "The Big Sleep". She, too, delivers nicely in "The Burglar" The film didn't make much of box-office splash but over the years has become something of a cult favorite. It was part of the TCM Film Noir Classics III DVD set released several years back. But I'd love to see a solo Blu-Ray release.
I've never seen The Burglar, but I think it was on YouTube once. Jayne filmed that movie on location in Philadelphia in the summer of 1955. She had just been released from her six-month-contract with Warner Brothers. The director of the movie, Paul Wendkos, later claimed to have "discovered" Mansfield.

While she was filming The Burglar, she heard about a casting call for Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? on Broadway. The part of screen siren Rita Marlowe had apparently written with Mamie Van Doren in mind, but she refused the role, and thus a casting call was sent out. Although her desire was for film stardom, Mansfield auditioned for and won the role, resulting in her achieving Broadway stardom.

The Burglar was put on ice after filming was completed. Apparently Columbia Pictures didn't see much promise in the film and didn't want to release it. They finally released it in 1957 when Mansfield's celebrity was at its peak. It enjoyed moderate critical and box office success.

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Caproni

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Does anyone know where I could find a good, and preferably cheap, copy of The Wayward Bus Twilight Time Blu-ray edition? I know there were only 3,000 available, and I know that finding a "cheap" copy might not be in the cards.

But I'm hoping...
 

Robin9

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Recommend Too Hot to Handle (1960). I have the b&w DVD with original English soundtrack and the German colour DVD which unfortunately only has a German dubbing. Would like this on blu ray.
I held off buying that German DVD because of the lack of an English soundtrack. I too would like a Blu-ray disc in compensation! Some of Jayne Mansfield's best publicity stills come from that movie.
 

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