Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Girl Can't Help It

Mrs. O'Leary's Vache

In her essay "The Fame Game" commissioned for the stunning new Criterion edition of Frank Tashlin's The Girl Can't Help It [1956], Rachel Syme offers: "After The Girl Can't Help It came out, the Cahiers du cinéma crowd — especially François Truffaut — wrote rhapsodic reviews about Tashlin's unique ability to reimagine Merrie Melodies sight gags in a feature film. Tashlin, for his part, thought this was mostly film-nerd codswallop. 'Truffaut, and Godard, and all these people, when they were reviewers on Cahiers du cinéma, they always treated my films, my Jerry Lewis films and all, as a cartoon,' he said. 'I did a picture with Tom Ewell and Jayne Mansfield, and as far as they were concerned, that was a Tom and Jerry cartoon, and the fact that his name was Tom, and hers was Jerri — which I never thought of [Yeah right! -CK]—they said, 'She is the cat, and he is the mouse.' And they wrote, you know, all this philosophical double-talk.'" Never mind that Tashlin seems to be able to quote or, more accurately, invent these attributions, a revisitation of Truffaut's 1957 review proves, quite Frankly, Tashlin doth protest too much.

"The story is put together out of 347 gags — Tashlin counted them himself," writes Truffaut, "— with seven or eight musical numbers that are remarkably well directed and elevate rock and roll even as they satirize it. [...] In The Girl Can't Help It, rock and roll is refined and becomes, in its own way, rather grand."

The 2004 interview with John Waters (first included in a Second Sight release) and a new conversation between WFMU's Dave "the Spazz" and Gaylord Fields alone make this a must-own. The detail of the frame above doesn't do the Scope framing or De Luxe color anything approaching justice. When will we have access to equivalent editions of The Lieutenant Wore Skirts or The Disorderly Orderly? •


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