05 October 2007

Unspoiled after all these years

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Alright. I'm not actually suggesting you go out and buy the above collection. First of all, no amount of arm-twisting, cajoling, or bribery could ever make me believe Jayne Mansfield was anything but a very slight clone of the great Marilyn. Everyone wanted a blonde bombshell, but instead of finding one with a unique, original mien, the studios found poor mimics.

Despite Ms. Mansfield's shortcomings (not the least of which - inflicting Mariska Hargitay upon an unsuspecting world with an able assist from hubby Mickey) there is one movie of hers I've always loved. Loved despite her. Loved, because it stars one of the greatest, funniest, most talented comic actors to ever grace a screen, large or small. Sadly, that movie is still not available for individual sale (though it can be rented from Netflix, as I did.)

I love Tony Randall.

It's been probably 20 years since I've seen Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? I was pretty sure my memory of the film was not too colored by the years, but it was time to find out.

I moved Lover Boy to the top of my queue. It shipped the other day, but we had the final disc of Freaks and Geeks to finish, plus the second episodes of the new TV season to deal with. Tonight, after a very long week we popped it in.

Memory served me well.

The movie's dated in some ways, notably the odd trans-Atlantic accent of Betsy Drake's Jenny Wells and...well nothing else, really. Sure the movie is an artifact of its time and place, but its takes on fame, success, and love are as contemporary as the matching outfits of Rita Marlowe's poodle, Shamroy. Since it's a full-size French poodle, it's MUCH larger than today's stars like; however, it's otherwise treated the same as any modern purse rat dog.

There is one fundamental problem with the movie: watching it one can only fantasize about how Marilyn would have elevated the film beyond very good into transcendental. The original George Axelrod play was optioned by Fox (and then completely discarded and replaced with Frank Tashlin's screenplay) specifically to get Mansfield, but I can dream. Mansfield just didn't have charisma. Much like her daughter Mariska who sits at home polishing Lauren Graham's Emmy, momma Jayne was an inferior performer.

Fortunately, this movie is all Randall and he is transcendent. If your only exposure to Tony Randall is his excellent work on The Odd Couple, you owe it to yourself to see some of his earlier film work. Try Rock Hunter, or 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, or watch him play the sidekick in one of the Hudson/Day comedies.