Cinema of yesteryear ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ | Sunday Observer
Retro reviews:

Cinema of yesteryear ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’

24 January, 2021

A musical comedy that captures the melodies and vibrancy of the ‘Rock and Roll Age’ of the 1950s, ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ is a musical comedy that entertainingly shows the showiness of show business which saw the rise of singing sensations in the US with the shadow of the mafia having a hand in how the ‘stars’ make it big.

With screen sex siren Jayne Mansfield in the lead role as Jerri Jordan, this movie was released in 1956, and was directed by Frank Tashlin, with Hollywood screen star Tom Edwell playing the role of Tom Miller who is a theatrical agent whose best days have faded away due to his alcoholism.

Breaking of fourth wall

The movie opens and ends with what can be called a ‘breaking of the fourth wall’ since Tom Edwell addresses the audience in the manner of a ‘presenter’ who gives a glimpse into what the character he plays as Tom Miller and the story he is about to embark on. The story ends with a manner of addressing the audience by Edwell’s character as well as Mansfield and also Edmond O’Brien who plays the role of mobster Marty ‘Fats’ Murdock.

The premise of the story revolves around once big time mobster Marty “Fats” Murdock’s unrelenting desire to see his blonde bombshell of a girlfriend, Jerri Jordan, played by Mansfield, become a ‘singing star’ so that he can marry her and let society see how he has married a ‘celebrity’ and not some nondescript ‘nobody’.

Murdock wants his future wife to achieve this status despite her seeming lack of talent! The story’s drive is Murdock’s contract with alcoholic theatrical talent agent Tom Miller whom he hires to build up Jordan into a celebrity and promote her at entertainment establishments in the city where musical stage shows are performed. Miller’s past successes make Murdock believe he is the man for the job since Miller is also known to never make sexual advances towards his female clients and maintain business relationships purely professional. This attribute is what Murdock finds indispensable in Miller.

Romantic sentiments

However, what ensues once Miller begins his plans for Jerri Jordon is a whole other set of revelations about the characters of Miller and Jordon who are not entirely what they seem as they are both concealing pasts that do not exactly keep them on their current ‘track’ so to say. Always with the mindset of a suspicious man who keeps his nose on the trail of anything that smells fishy to him, Murdock begins to feel that there are romantic sentiments and intentions brewing between Miller and Jordon even before such sentiments begin to manifest.

The result is a series of comical incidents that finally see quite a turn of events as Murdock ends up becoming a singing sensation featured on national TV, while Jordon realises her desires of becoming a homemaker to a loving husband as she and Miller are given a clear path to finally come together as a couple.

The movie brings some delightful oldies from a host of performers to music fans of the Rock and Roll genre. Little Richard sings the title song of the movie and what is notable in this ‘musical’ is that music and musical performance doesn’t actually narrate parts of the storyline per se with actors singing solos or duets as part of their character’s behaviour in ‘off stage’ life. The element of song and music is more as showcased entertainment items that reflect the culture of ‘show business’ in which the story is found. This is a movie that will be amusing to most. I can recommend ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ to vintage movie lovers who also enjoy the American ‘Rock and Roll’ entertainment scene of the 1950s.