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Film / The Girl Can't Help It

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She was born to please!

"Our story is about music, not the music of long ago, but the music that expresses the culture, the refinement and the polite grace of the present day."

The Girl Can't Help It is a 1956 musical comedy film starring Jayne Mansfield as the titular "girl", alongside Tom Ewell, Edmond O'Brien, Henry Jones, Barry Gordon, and Julie London.

Tom Miller (Ewell) is a down-on-his-luck music agent, called in to help former gangster Marty "Fats" Murdock's (O'Brien) girlfriend Jerri Jordan (Mansfield) make it big in the music business. Of course things get complicated when those two fall in love, and it turns out Jerri doesn't even want to be a singer. Can they get Murdock to understand the latter and not find out about the former?

The film, directed by former Warner Bros. animation director Frank Tashlin and intended as a vehicle for the sex symbol Mansfield, is also notable for its embracing of rock and roll, as it has many actual recording stars of the time perform their hits. The film also inspired John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles to get into music, so this film is one of the causes of The British Invasion.

Provides examples of:

  • The '50s: The definitive portrayal of 50s Rock and Roll.
  • Artistic License – Music: The record industry in the film is controlled by rival jukebox manufacturers.
  • Agony of the Feet: After walking around the clubs in heels, there is a shot of Jerri's swollen bare feet when she gets home.
  • The Alcoholic: Tom Miller is seriously on the sauce.
  • Anti-Love Song: Julie London's "Cry Me a River" is one, apparently to spite him:
    "Come and cry me a river
    cry me a river
    I cried a river over you."
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: When Tom introduces the film, he notices the Aspect Ratio is wrong, and then has the camera spread to widescreen.
  • Babies Ever After: Our two leads show up at the end with their children.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Jerri causes several accidents (and sexually-charged visual puns) by walking down the street.
  • Double Entendre: A lot of the jokes about Jerri's... equipment, including this famous line:
    Tom: Rome wasn't built in a day.
    Murdock: She ain't Rome. What we're talking about is already built.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Tom started a while back and he didn't stop.
  • Dude Magnet: Most men end up dazed or tongue tied in Jerri's lovely presence.
  • Epic Rocking: Little Richard performs "She's Got It" and "Ready Teddy" in the middle section. And of course the opening credits is his title hit, "The Girl Can't Help It".

  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Jerri is faking that she cant's sing because she doesn't want that career.
  • Imagine Spot: "Cry Me A River" as Tom imagining Julie London in his room all around the house in various outfits.
  • Informed Ability: One might find that about Murdock's song at the end. Of course it's part of the Take That! against packaged rock music.
  • Lady in Red: Jerri dresses in red when Tom takes her out to the clubs to get noticed.
  • Male Gaze: There's lots of shots of these whenever Jerri walks into the scene.
  • The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: Rock music's popular among kids, the musicians are young and talented, yet the business is owned by 30s gangsters. Indeed, the whole plot is about this trope. Fats Murdoch is trying to promote his moll as a pop sensation so he can cash in on her success, but then it turns out that he's the one with the talent for rock music. Indeed, Murdoch's old rival, who came to the finale to kill Fats, sees how popular he's with the kids and signs him up. It's Nothing Personal, just business.
  • The One That Got Away: In the film, Tom was Real Life singer Julie London's agent, and he fell in love with her. But he let her get away, and that drove him to start drinking and sent his career spiraling.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Quite a few, with Julie wearing as many in her scene as Jerri does in the whole movie.
  • Pretty in Mink: Jerri is a gangster's girlfriend, so she wears several furs. Her first scene is her wearing a white fox wrap and a dress with a white fox hem. Tom even uses one of her fox wraps as part of showing her off. She wears it coming into the club, and when the owner is around, he has her take it off and walk by, so the owner can see her full figure.
  • Punny Name: One could take the fact that the names of the two leads are Tom and Jerri as a two-person example of this, although the latter's is just a stage name, and her actual name is Georgiana.
  • Real-Person Cameo: The rock acts on offer: Little Richard, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, Eddie Cochrane, Fats Domino, The Platters, Abbey Lincoln, Julie London and others. In Julie London's case, it is in fact a plot point that Tom was her manager in-universe. Initially Tashlin hoped to get Elvis Presley but Colonel Tom Parker vetoed the offer, so it was very nearly a full set.
  • Something Else Also Rises: A scene has three of these, including a bottle of milk bursting open at the top.
  • Supermodel Strut: A famous scene has Jerri doing a sexy strut down a street, and reactions to her swaying hips causing several accidents and sexually-charged visual puns, the most memorable including a bottle of milk bursting open at the top. Said scene is depicted on the movie's poster.
  • The One That Got Away: Julie London is this for Tom Miller, apparently he kept their relationship strictly business and broke her heart, and Tom interprets the song "Cry Me a River" as a Take That! to him.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: She's in the film for one song, but Julie London has a jaw-dropping amount of costume changes during "Cry Me A River".
  • Visual Pun: Jerri holding two jugs of milk against her chest.
  • Widescreen Shot: When Tom introduces the film, he notices the Aspect Ratio is wrong, and then has the camera spread to widescreen.
  • Wolf Whistle: The paperboy does the two-note whistle after seeing the lovely Jerri.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: A strong case could be made that Jerri is this In-Universe.