We've done Jayne Mansfield before, and we haven't gotten to Mamie Van Doren yet. However, from what I can see, Jayne Mansfield could act, and I've seen Mamie Van Doren in a few things--she couldn't. Besides, she never became quite as iconic, for all she's still flashing her breasts around. (Actually, the way Mamie Van Doren acts now is kind of repulsive--it's the way Mansfield flashed her breats, but Mansfield died at 34. Mamie Van Doren [i]is still doing it.[/i]) In fact, the places this movie suffers the most are the ones wherein Mansfield is obviously trying to be Marilyn Monroe. It's well known that there were a lot of essentially Monroe impersonators at the time, and certainly Mansfield was one of them. But there are also places where her talent shows through, and it's disappointing when they take that away for her to simper and coo.
Tom Miller (Tom Ewell) is a fading agent. He had one big success with Julie London (apparently a real singer), but his romantic interest in her took second place to pushing her to have a career, and they broke up both romatically and professionally. It's while he's in this has-been state that Marty "Fats" Murdock (Edmond O'Brian) brings him in and essentially orders him to make his girlfriend, Georgianne "Jerri" Jordan (Mansfield) a singing star. Now, Miller knows it's not as easy as snapping your fingers, but he starts making connections. He takes her out on the town, shows her off, and won't tell the various nightclub managers what she does. And the next day, they find a rehearsal studio so he can find out what she does. Of course, he knows she's going to be a singer--Fats said so--so he has her sing, and she does. And it's awful. And if he doesn't make her a star, Fats--a former mobster--is going to be very displeased.
Frankly, I was expecting a much worse movie than this. In my head, perhaps in most people's heads, Jayne Mansfield was just another proto-Monroe, a woman whose talent was her breasts. And they were pretty spectacular. But, you know, we watched [i]Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?[/i] a while back, and that was pretty funny, too. I shouldn't have gone in expecting bad. I should have gone in expecting light and silly. It is awfully silly, the more so when she fakes that little Monroe coo, but it's still funny. Oh, the painful kind of funny here and there, but funny nonetheless. The acting tends to be rather burlesque, but it works with the storyline. No one should be taking this seriously.
According to the box, people call it the best rock 'n' roll film ever made. I can't think who; whoever it is must not consider [i]A Hard Day's Night[/i] or [i]Help![/i] rock 'n' roll films. It is true that there are an awful lot of musical numbers by still-famous people--Fats Domino, for example, and Little Richard. However, in several places, it just feels like padding. It just [i]is[/i] padding, honestly. Oh, it's not bad, and I think the plot could have been padded out to fill the spots currently taken by, oh, The Platters, but it is padding nonetheless. I mean, do we really need not one but three performances of "The Rock Pile Rock"? (I think that's what it was called.) We do not. But there it is.
I'm developing a fondness for Jayne Mansfield, but I think it's interesting to compare her career to her daughter's. You see, her daughter is Mariska Hargitay from [i]Law & Order: Special Victims Unit[/i]. Which means one odd little comparison. Jayne Mansfield's career was built on sex. She projected it, probably even when she was doing the fine acting I believe she accomplished in the few serious films she did. What's more, that sex probably helped diminish her career as much as it built it up, because that was all people saw of her--those breasts. On the other hand, Mariska Hargitay has made her career fighting against all kinds of sexual perversion. And she was on that fateful car ride. Probably it's coincidence, but it's still worth considering.