Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is a 1957 film directed and co-written by Frank Tashlin, very loosely based on a play of the same name by George Axelrod.
It's a sex comedy centered around one Rockwell Hunter (Tony Randall), a Madison Avenue ad man who works at a rival to Sterling Cooper, and is engaged to his pretty secretary, Jenny (Betsy Drake). As the film starts, however, Rock receives some bad news: his firm is about to lose the Stay-Put lipstick account, and as a consequence Rock is about to lose his job.
A desperate Rock finally hits on an idea: he will get Hollywood sex kitten Rita Marlowe (Jayne Mansfield) to endorse Stay-Put lipstick. Rita, who is The Ditz, demands that Rock pretend to be her boyfriend to make her real boyfriend, strongman Bobo Branigansky (Mickey Hargitay), jealous. This blows up in Rock's face when Bobo leaks his name to the media, making him instantly infamous as Rita's "Lover Doll".
Joan Blondell appears as Rita's wisecracking assistant Vi.
- Actor Allusion:
- Rita's boyfriend Bobo Branigansky is played by Mickey Hargitay, Jayne Mansfield's husband at the time.
- A radio announcer is talking about Rita doing a movie with Cary Grant just as Jenny enters for the first time. Her actress, Betsy Drake, was married to Grant at the time.
- Aspect Ratio Switch: TV is lampooned when the image is briefly shrunk from movie-sized to TV-sized.
- Bathtub Scene: Rita covered in bubbles for a fanservice scene with Vi.
- Breast Expansion: Invoked with a subplot about women overworking themselves to exhaustion doing push-ups in a vain attempt to enhance their bustlines to Rita Marlowe's generous proportions. Even Jenny and Rock's niece April; Rock finds the former flopped unconscious, and when he puts her to bed, her arms are still stuck in position.
- Brief Accent Imitation: Jenny mocks Rock by imitating Rita's voice, complete with her high-pitched squeals.
- Buxom Is Better: In one scene, Jenny tries doing a ton of push ups hoping to make her chest bigger. She doesn't do any proper stretching or warm-ups, so this causes her arms to stiffen in that position. Then Rock sees his own niece stuck the same way.
- Call to Agriculture: Rock's boss Mr. LaSalle wanted to be a horticulturist breeding roses; when he confides this to him, Rock confesses that he wanted to be a chicken farmer. In the end, both get to live out their dreams.
- Calling Me a Logarithm:Vi: She's incorporating herself!Rita: Don't talk dirty on TV! This is a family medium!
- The Cameo: Multiple references to Rita's true love, one George Schmidlap. He pops up right at the end, played by Groucho Marx.Rita: George, how come you never tried to kiss me before?
George: (looks at Rita's bosom) I never could get close enough.
- Celebrity Paradox: Rita's movies—The Girl Can't Help It, Kiss Them for Me, and The Wayward Bus—are actually Jayne Mansfield's movies.
- Cheating with the Milkman: Vi's first love was a milkman. When she watches Rock on television, she tells the man with her "Leave two quarts tomorrow."
- Conversation Cut: As a montage plays of Rock trying to recover from a vicious hangover—taking a shower, getting a massage—Jenny explains her plan for Rock to land the Rita Marlowe endorsement, her dialogue uninterrupted from scene to scene.
- Double Entendre: Many. Vi recalls how Rita once dated a Hollywood actor who made her "polish his Oscar".
- Drowning My Sorrows: Rock gets good and drunk after losing his job. Later Vi is pounding back liquor while remembering how she was long ago dumped by her one true love, a milkman.
- The End: Or rather, "The Very Living End".
- Format Specific Joke: Tony Randall comes on screen out of character and compares film's big screen to the tiny TV screen.Randall: Ladies and gentlemen, this break in our motion picture is made out of respect for the TV fans in our audience, who are accustomed to constant interruptions in their programs for messages from sponsors. We want all you TV fans to feel at home, and not forget the thrill you get, watching television on your big, 21-inch screens.
- Gag Boobs: Rita's bust is the subject of jokes, albeit indirectly (The Hays Code was still in effect, after all). In one scene, a cardboard standee of Rita falls over and bounces back up. Later, Jenny pretends to be Rita to tease Rock, with her bra stuffed to about two extra cup sizes
- Going Fur a Swim: As she's getting off the plane Rita opens up her full length white mink to reveal that she's wearing nothing but a swimsuit beneath it.
- Groupie Brigade: In one scene Rock is chased by a Groupie Brigade desperate for a piece of "Lover Doll". They corner him in an alley. When he makes it to Rita's apartment his clothes are in shreds.
- Hangover Sensitivity: Rock is much the worse for wear after going on a bender after he's fired.
- Home Sweet Home: Ends with Rock having left the advertising rat race (despite getting promoted to president of his company) and followed his true dream: running a chicken farm in the country with Jenny.
- Honest John's Dealership: One of the montage of hilariously awful commercials that starts the movie is for a car dealer named Rambunctious Rupert. The door of the car he's trying to sell falls off when he opens it.
- Huge Girl, Tiny Guy: Rock worries that the height difference between him and Rita will make them look ridiculous (although it's clearly not that great), saying that his face only reaches her shoulder. To compensate, she gives him elevator shoes, which force him to stomp around like Frankenstein's Monster.
- I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You!: Rita introduces her TV special by saying there will be no mention of Stay-Put Lipstick during the program, and then goes on to mention all the Stay-Put lipstick colors that won't be mentioned, but that she personally uses for her oh-so-kissable lips.
- In Name Only: An adaptation of a stage play called Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? starring Jayne Mansfield. However, other than the idea of Mansfield playing a blonde bimbo named Rita Marlowe, nothing is taken from the play, which is actually an adaptation of Faust.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Vi tells Rita that she used to be young and pretty like her, "equipped with just as many extras."
- Logo Joke: The 20th Century Fox logo and famous fanfare is accompanied by a shot of Tony Randall, out of character, attempting to play that fanfare on drum, trumpet, and cello. He then grouses about being contractually obligated to do so.
- Medium Awareness: Starts with Tony Randall as Tony Randall introducing himself, telling his character's name, and telling the title of the movie. About 2/3 of the way through there's a decidedly odd intermission where Randall appears again as Randall.
- Ms. Fanservice: It's Jayne Mansfield, so tight dresses and revealing outfits throughout.
- New Media Are Evil: The weird "intermission" before the start of Act III is an extended Take That! to television, as the image is reduced from widescreen Technicolor to a tiny, blurry black-and-white window. An out-of-character Randall drips with sarcasm at the wonder of watching a story on a 21-inch screen, filled with interruptions.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- Much as Jayne Mansfield was a Poor Man's Substitute for Marilyn Monroe in Real Life, her character is clearly based on the ditzy Monroe persona.
- And in his one scene Bobo, clad in a fur leotard and hanging out in a tree with monkeys, is an obvious clone of Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan.
- The show Rock appears in (but is never shown) is implied to be The Ed Sullivan Show, as the presenter speaks in Ed's distinct intonation.
- Operation: Jealousy: Rita uses Rock to make her boyfriend Bobo jealous. Rock only accepts in order to get Rita to endorse Stay-Put lipstick and save his job.
- Pretty in Mink: Rita wears a lot of fur coats. And when a trio of ladies appear to say the film's title one is wearing a pink cape trimmed with white fox.
- Questioning Title?: Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
- Something Else Also Rises: After getting kissed by Rita, the popcorn on Rock's pockets keeps popping as he walks down the street.
- Title Drop: Comes at the intermission, where Randall wonders what will happen to his character, asking "Will success spoil Rock Hunter?"
- Widescreen Shot: Lampshaded in the intermission, a Take That! to television in which the screen shrinks from a widescreen shot to a TV-sized window focused on Randall's face.
- Wondrous Ladies Room: Or in this case, wondrous executive bathroom.
- Worst News Judgment Ever: The supposed Hunter-Marlowe romance is huge front-page news all over the world. When Rita gives out a public statement, Rufus says that it's on every TV station, "like when the President speaks."