Will Jayne spoil Judge Brett Cullum?
Barry the paperboy: [after Jayne Mansfield walks by] If that's a girl, then I
don't know what my sister is!"
As I watched Mariska Hargitay accept her 2006 Emmy for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit all I could wonder is what her mother would make of her. She's the daughter of Jayne Mansfield, a mom who had quite a few kids who followed in her footsteps. Jayne Marie Mansfield (her first daughter) ended up as a Playboy centerfold in the mid '70s. It was a move her mother probably would have endorsed. Jayne was always about exposure and grabbing all the attention you could get, and she herself had posed for Hugh Hefner's publication. She believed in the power of the golden haired and big bosomed. Yeah, the world continues to be effected by blonde bombshells who died far too young. Marilyn Monroe will always be Hollywood's brightest platinum haired siren, but her contemporary competition was always Jayne Mansfield. Fox has finally unleashed the Jayne Mansfield Collection so DVD fans can contrast and compare the two actresses side by side.
Jayne Mansfield was born Vera Jane Palmer to affluent parents in 1933 Pennsylvania. When she was three years old her father died, and the mother moved her brood to Dallas with a new husband. It was in Texas that "Jayne" got the acting bug, and she studied theatre at the University of Texas in Austin before taking off to Hollywood. Mansfield performed on the stage quite a few times in her life, and she was hailed as a good actress. Yet when the studio system got a hold of her she was used to intimidate Marilyn Monroe, who was notorious for being hard to work with. They molded Jayne Mansfield in Marilyn's platinum blonde image, and she became famous for being "the poor man's Monroe." The pictures she made for Hollywood called on her to simply vamp and va va voom her way through comedy after comedy. She skylarked her way through simple pictures, and was a true professional who was easy to work with. Even better she adored publicity, and was a high profile studio star. Ultimately she was destined to end like Monroe. Jayne Mansfield died tragically young during a horrific car crash at thirty-four.
The first film featured in the Jayne Mansfield Collection is The Girl Can't Help It, a fluffy rock and roll musical comedy featuring Tom Ewell only a year after The Seven Year Itch (how did this nerd successfully woo both Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield?). It's the story of a washed up musical agent (Ewell) who is pressured by a mob boss (Edmond O' Brien, The Wild Bunch) to make his girlfriend (Mansfield) a star. Unfortunately she only wants to be a housewife, and Ewell's character falls for her. But the girl can't help it, she's destined to be a star. Mansfield's performance here is sweet and innocent, and she does well under Frank Tashlin's cartoonish direction. It's a film loaded with sight gags, and men standing agape as she merely enters a room.
The DVD captures the Cinemascope presentation perfectly, and provides rich saturated colors to underscore the comedy. Sound is only provided in simple stereo, but the rock and roll performances of Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Platters, Julie London, and others sound clear and appropriately punchy. Extras include a packed to the rafters commentary by Toby Miller who is a professor at NYU, as well as the A&E Biography on Mansfield. It's a great set of extras, and the best in the set.
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? features Tony Randall (The Odd Couple) as an advertising executive who comically is forced to charade as a famous actress's (Mansfield) boyfriend. It leads to success in his career, but dooms his personal life. The movie was based loosely on a play of the same title that Mansfield appeared in a New York production. The theatrical presentation made fun of movie people, but the film aims squarely at television and the commercialism of that medium. It's the most satirical of the three titles, and it bites at the small screen every chance it gets. Yet the lead actress seems to have her satirical eye on Hollywood much like she did in the play. Mansfield delivers a performance that pokes fun at Marilyn Monroe with her squeals and squeaks mixed with coos. But like all the movies in this box the leading man makes the movie, as Tony Randall steals the show playing the uptight ad man who is destined to become a legend of a lover despite his stiffness. You can also catch Jayne Mansfield's husband Mickey Hargitay playing her muscular boyfriend. Again the proceedings are directed by Frank Tashlin, so the movie revels in physical comedy instead of high brow meditations on the crassness of television consumerism.
Again the transfer does justice to the grand Cinemascope format, and offers a faithful four speaker surround mix. Commentary is provided this time by film historian Dana Polan (noted for Noir tracks), and insight is given to the intricacies of the production in regards to what was happening in the era itself. A newsreel and trailer are also provided to round out the supplemental material.
The final disc is a bare bones presentation of The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw. In this comedy western Jayne plays a saloon owner who aids an English gentleman (Kenneth Moore, The 39 Steps) as he becomes the legal head of a Western frontier town. Raoul Walsh helms the picture, and it comes off as a workhorse comedy without anything to make it stand out other than the deadpan delivery of the male lead and Jayne's spitfire character. It's the dog of the bunch (every box set has one), but it's harmless fun despite the racist portrayals of the Indians. No extras are offered other than a bizarre trailer which shows no footage of the movie, but rather audience reactions to the film. The transfer is as good as the other two titles, and there's another simple stereo mix for the sound. One notable oddity on the disc is a four channel French surround track which must be from a European release at some point.
Jayne Mansfield Collection comes in a very attractive slipcase cardboard cover with each disc in its own regular sized case. There are detailed booklets for each movie, and provided are nice postcard sized reproductions of lobby cards for the films. None of these titles are available separately in these incarnations, so the box set is the only way to acquire the titles with these extras. Menus are easy to navigate, and the whole affair seems classy and well put together like Mansfield herself. It's a nice set of fun light comedies from studio era Hollywood. The Girl Can't Help It is the title to own, but the other two are fun enough to merit a purchase.
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