10 January 2010

Jayne Mansfield and the Girl Who Can't Help It, Part I

I've been having trouble getting into the Jayne Mansfield classic The Girl Can't Help It. First of all, Tom Ewell, whom you probably know better as the star of The Seven Year Itch, is one of my least favorite actors of the 50's. I think he's smug and irritating. The movie is about a tired old agent who gets hired by a mobster to turn his talentless protectee (?) into a star in six weeks. Thing is, she doesn't want to be a star, she just wants to settle down and clean up after a man and make him souffles. It's kind of like they took a Judy Holliday vehicle, blended it with a Marilyn Monroe vehicle, and then drowned it in the kind of misogyny that plagued all too many Kim Novak vehicles and such. I love Kim Novak but Hollywood was not good to her in the 50s. She was really amazing but I feel like they used her a lot to show how women needed to be kept down and not allowed to get too uppity. That's kind of how this movie feels. It's funny, it almost seems like this kind of reactionary gender attitude should make the movie campy and I keep thinking it would have been funny even ten years ago. My initial thought was that it's because there's so much regression in America in the last decade that what seemed absurd and funny in the 90s seems kind of ugly and scary today. Maybe I'm wrong? Is it just me who has changed? Am I more mature? Too serious? Too corrupted by higher education? I don't know. Mansfield is appealing here but I keep falling asleep. My roommate says it's his new favorite movie. My goal is to finish it by tomorrow.

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