Sunday, September 07, 2008

Frank Tashlin, Patriot

The Girl Can't Help It (1956)
directed by Frank Tashlin
rating: 2 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

Frank Tashlin began as a Looney Tunes director, so who better to animate the debut of cartoonishly-proportioned Jayne Mansfield? Brought in by 20th Century Fox to facilitate America's transition from Marilyn Monroe to the next blonde bombshell, Mansfield had nothing in common with the chanteuse behind "Happy birthday, Mr. President," except, apparently, JFK. Tashlin treats her suitors like a roomful of Elmer Fudds hitting up Bugs Bunny in drag, but he does it with an eye to the era. Anyone can crack a pair of glasses looking at a pretty girl, but where else but the fifties could the milk man and the ice man join in on the joke? A decade earlier and no one could be so crude in a major studio picture; a decade later and the ice was already in the fridge. Generally, though, the adults seem out of place. Tashlin is no one if not the kid hawking newspapers to blondes in convertibles; kids get what the grown-ups are talking about, but they can still leave when they want to go play with their friends.