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Film / Promises! Promises! (1963)

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An early appearance of '70s Hair
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Promises! Promises! is a 1963 film directed by King Donovan, starring Jayne Mansfield.

It's an Awful British Sex Comedy in every respect other than that it was an American movie. Sally (Mansfield) and Tommy (Tommy Noonan) are vacationing on a cruise ship. Tommy, a bespectacled, nebbishy writer, seems to be having problems getting it up, possibly due to performance anxiety—he is after all a bespectacled nebbish married to a voluptuous sex bomb. He goes to the ship's doctor, who, realizing that Tommy's an idiot, gives him some aspirin and tells him that it's 1963 Viagra.

The fake aphrodisiac apparently works through the power of suggestion. Sally, who desperately wants to get pregnant, visits the ship's doctor. The doctor tells Tommy, not Sally, that she isn't pregnant (1963, folks), but when Sally comes back in the office an anguished Tommy can't admit the truth and tells her that she is. Tommy panics and goes back to the doctor for more of the fake aphrodisiac.

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Enter Tommy and Sally's neighbors on the cruise ship and friends, actor/weightlifter King Banner (Mickey Hargitay, Jayne Mansfield's husband, and father of their daughter Mariska Hargitay) and his Deadpan Snarker wife Claire (Marie McDonald). Tommy has a plan to use the aspirin aphrodisiac again, but after King and Claire barge in on their romantic dinner uninvited, King winds up drinking Tommy's "aphrodisiac". Through plot contrivances which include Tommy whacking his head and getting a concussion, Tommy winds up spending the evening with Claire while Sally goes to the bar for drinks with King. After Sally is determined to be pregnant for real, Tommy becomes convinced that King knocked up his wife. Tommy, who can't remember the events of that evening very well after drinking and bonking his head, also starts to suspect that he may have had sex with Claire.

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One of the all-time examples of Best Known for the Fanservice. This movie, made independently outside of the studio system and thus not subject to The Hays Code, featured scenes of Jayne Mansfield topless and naked from behind. While those scenes proved very controversial they did little to resurrect Mansfield's career, which had deteriorated to nightclub appearances by the time she was tragically killed in a car wreck in 1967.

Not to be confused with Promises, Promises, a Neil Simon play that was actually an adaptation of film The Apartment.


Tropes:

  • Animated Credits Opening: Starts off with abstract animation of champagne bottles and champagne glasses, ending with animation of a baby's diaper.
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • The ship's doctor seems to think that two occasions two weeks apart each might have been times where Sally got pregnant. A woman's cycle is 28 days and she's only fertile once.
    • When pouring out his sex troubles to the doctor, Tommy mentions having once contracted the mumps. The mumps cause sterility, not impotence.
  • Bathtub Scene: Opens with Sally taking a bubble bath singing a song called "I'm in Love". Since this was a movie marketed explicitly for scenes of Jayne Mansfield getting naked, the bubbles cover up less than they would have in any other American film prior to 1963.
  • Camp Gay: Babette, the male but extremely effeminate hairdresser, played by female impersonator T.C. Jones. He's the only man to come to Sally's baby shower, where he gets really campy by doing impersonations of Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, and, wait for it, Jayne Mansfield (see Celebrity Paradox below).
  • Celebrity Paradox: Babette, putting on a little show for the girls at the baby shower, does an impersonation of none other than Jayne Mansfield, doing her slinky mannerisms and high, breathy voice. Sally says "I can do her too!", and gets up and does the same impersonation. So that's Jayne Mansfield, in character as Sally, doing an impersonation of Jayne Mansfield.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Tommy gets blitzed at King's birthday party, after having become convinced that King impregnated Sally. In fact he spends most of the rest of the movie drunk, carrying around his own bottle of bourbon until Claire throws it into the ocean and makes him sober up.
  • Excited Title! Two-Part Episode Name!: Promises! Promises!. Although it's not clear what the heck that title is supposed to mean.
  • Fanservice: Jayne Mansfield's nude scenes—lounging in a bathtub, lounging in a bed, and taking her top off while she talks to Tommy—all happen in the first eight minutes of the movie. Amusingly, they are repeated more or less randomly several more times throughout.
  • Irony: The whole second half of the movie has Tommy riven with anxiety over the prospect of his wife bearing another man's child. The ending reveals that King is infertile, and also, Claire suddenly turns up pregnant. So not only did Tommy successfully impregnate his own wife, he did have sex with Claire on the night he whacked his head, and he knocked her up as well, and it's actually King who will be raising another man's baby.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Tommy seems to be intimidated by his sex bomb of a wife.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Tommy is horrified by the prospect that another man knocked up his wife.
  • Not Wanting Kids Is Weird: Tommy is startled when Claire says she has no desire for kids. He cites the natural human urge for reproduction, which Claire says is the natural human urge to get laid. Subverted later when it's revealed that Claire did want kids and was disappointed to find out that King is infertile.
  • Placebo Effect: The doctor gives Tommy some aspirin and tells him its an aphrodisiac. He's boggled by Tommy's stupidity, but it works, as swallowing two aspirin allows Tommy to have sex with his wife.
  • Running Gag: The squat, double-chinned grandmotherly lady who is gadding about the ship in the company of her beau, a tall handsome Italian guy who looks to be well less than half her age. She is cooing like a blushing young bride, while her gigolo boyfriend is always intensely embarrassed.
  • Sex Comedy: A sex farce involving accidental wife swapping, possible adultery, a dorky dude worried about his impotence, lots of dirty double entendres, and naked Jayne Mansfield.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Most of the movie is Jayne Mansfield naked or in tight dresses, but Marie McDonald was a beauty pageant winner and Claire wears a series of sexy backless dresses of her own during the movie.
  • Something Else Also Rises: The Sexy Discretion Shot as an aroused Tommy is all over his wife cuts to a shot of—the ship's horn, blowing.
  • Split Screen: An amusing effect in which the two couples are shown in their two cabins, with the wall in the center of the image, making a split screen. Both couples are blocked and shot rather similarly and are saying and doing similar things. King gets ill with seasickness at the same moment that Sally gets ill with what she thinks is morning sickness. The last time this is done, the scene starts with King and Tommy both saying "So how was the [baby] shower?" in unison after Sally and Claire enter their respective rooms, and ends with Claire and Tommy saying "If you want a divorce, you've got it!"in unison as they leave their respective rooms.
  • Video Credits: Clips of all the actors are played in the opening credits next to their names.
  • Wacky Cravings: Claire's craving for sour pickles is Sally's tipoff that Claire is pregnant as well.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Tommy whacked his head on the stateroom door, and an intoxicated Claire took him to the infirmary, and neither of them remember all that clearly what they did after that.
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