The Girl Can't Help It
|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 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. The movie 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 original music score, including a 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 (Murdock) composed while in prison. 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 Murdoch 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 song writer. However, when Miller reveals that the song writer 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 Murdoch 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
- Henry Jones as Mousie
- John Emery as Wheeler
- Little Richard as Himself
- Julie London as Herself
- Ray Anthony as Himself
- Barry Gordon as Barry the paperboy
- Juanita Moore as Hilda
- Fats Domino as Himself
- Eddie Cochran as Himself
- Herb Reed as Himself (as The Platters)
- David Lynch as Himself (as The Platters)
- Tony Williams as Himself (as The Platters)
- Paul Robi as Himself (as The Platters)
- Zola Taylor as Herself (as The Platters)
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 "worshiped" American rock 'n' roll stars as living humans and thus further inspiring him to pursue his own rock and 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, Elvis Presley's famous performance of the song "Jailhouse Rock" in the movie of the same name (often cited as the first music video), released one year after The Girl Can't Help It, bears 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 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 even includes some of the hip-swiveling and leg motions for which Elvis became famous.
Reportedly, the producers had wanted Elvis for The Girl Can't Help It, but Elvis's manager Tom Parker 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
- Norman, Philip (2008). John Lennon: The Life. Doubleday Canada. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-385-66100-3.
- Norman (2008), p. 99.
- Norman (2008), p. 107.
- The Girl Can't Help It at the Internet Movie Database
- The Girl Can't Help It at AllMovie
- The Girl Can't Help It at the TCM Movie Database
- The Girl Can't Help It at Rotten Tomatoes