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  Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? O Lucky Man
Year: 1957
Director: Frank Tashlin
Stars: Tony Randall, Jayne Mansfield, Betsy Drake, Joan Blondell, John Williams, Henry Jones, Lili Gentle, Mickey Hargitay, Georgia Carr, Dick Whittinghill, Ann McCrea, Majel Barrett, Barbara Eden, Groucho Marx
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Here's Tony Randall to introduce the film, and not only that but play the 20th Century Fox fanfare as well. Once he's done so, he finds he cannot recall the name of the production, but luckily his female co-stars are present to remind him, in unison. This is set in the world of advertising, so as the credits roll we are treated to a number of commercials, except they don't seem quite sensible somehow. But it's Randall who is our star, playing Rockwell Hunter who is trying to think up a campaign for Stay-Put lipstick, except his idea for singing chickens is not going down too well...

Then Rock notices a certain movie star who is world famous, and dreams of securing her services for the lipstick advertising: that star is none other than Jayne Mansfield! Except it's actually Rita Marlowe she's playing, only Rita Marlowe was a thinly disguised version of Jayne, living the lifestyle that her fans imagined her to be living, and exaggerating her comic aspects to create a living caricature, which you may argue was what the actual Mansfield did in real life. Naturally, this made her perfect for a Frank Tashlin movie, a former animator who specialised in translating the madcap stylings of his cartoons to live action.

Of course, she had already headlined a Tashlin movie, and that was the cult classic The Girl Can't Help It, so for their follow-up they went back to the stage hit that had made Jayne a star, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? If audiences of the day were expecting a straight adaptation of the play, they might well have been let down, although she did wear a towel at one point, as Tashlin scripted the satire to take potshots not so much at Hollywood, but at Hollywood's great rival, the advertising and television landscape that was taking over the media in the public's consciousness. Hollywood made no secret of the fact that they saw the small screen as their biggest threat, hence the gleaming colour and Cinemascope of much of their product at the time.

In the same way he used rock 'n' roll in his previous movie with Mansfield, showbiz is what the plot revolves around, yet here the targets were treated with far less affection, and far more scathing humour. Rockwell Hunter's notion that he could hire Rita for his campaign and save the agency leads to him being ignored at work as usual until he convinces his niece April (Lili Gentle), the president of the actress's fanclub, to introduce them. He finds himself in Rita's hotel room as she tries to get over breaking up with her he-man actor boyfriend Mickey Hargitay (who Jayne was married to, of course), and she settles on Rockwell posing as her latest fling to make him jealous.

All for the sake of the publicity, naturally, which works better than either of them could have imagined as Rock becomes an international sensation, dubbed "Lover Doll" and chased down the street by female admirers, all of which is ridiculous when you understand what prissy characters Randall routinely portrayed. Soon his fiancée Jenny (Betsy Drake, best known at the time for being Cary Grant's wife) has split up with him after deciding that she is no match for Rita, and Rock is beginning to ponder the nature of success, as the film does. It draws the conclusion that true success is personal happiness, and that does not necessarily mean making tons of money and becoming world famous, pretty rich coming from the Hollywood types, but even that Tashlin cannot resist sending up (Randall as a chicken farmer?!). Not quite as frantic as its reputation, this nevertheless is a tonic for those looking for vintage laughs and bright, cynical entertainment. Music by Cyril J. Mockridge.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Frank Tashlin  (1913 - 1972)

American director whose films were heavily influenced by his years spent working in cartoons. In his 20s and 30s, Tashlin worked at both Disney and Warner Brothers in their animation studios, before moving into comedy scriptwriting in the late 1940s, on films like Bob Hope's The Paleface. Tashlin moved into directing popular live-action comedies soon after, with Hope in Son of Paleface, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in Artists and Models and Hollywood or Bust, and most notably Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can't Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? These films were full of inventive, sometimes surreal touches, and used many of the techniques Tashlin had learnt as an animator. Continued to work during the sixties, but without the success of the previous decade.

 
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