After watching several movies built around rock/country music with the plot secondary to the music, it was refreshing to see this light romantic comedy where the musical performances are integrated into the plot. Unlike some of the similar movies from this time period, The Girl Can't Help It (GCHI) could easily exist without the music acts and still be entertaining.
A gangster (Edmund O'Brien) wants to reclaim the limelight from his golden years of fame. His plan is to make his girlfriend (Jayne Mansfield) into a famous pop singer, then he'll marry her and as the husband of someone famous he'll have his name back in the newspapers. Of course, in today's world O'Brien would be counting on getting his own reality show. O'Brien hooks a washed up press agent (Tom Ewell) into his plan and everything is set to go. Only a couple of problems: Jayne can't sing, she'd rather be a housewife, and as if we didn't know this was going to happen - Jayne and Tom fall in Love.
Using the construct of the music business enables GCHI to include musical acts as part of the story. The very first music act we see in the movie is Nino Tempo (No April!) performing in a nightclub where Tom is sitting alone drinking. As the movie rolls along we get perfomances from Little Richard, Eddie Fontaine, Johnny Olenn, The Chuckles, Abbey Lincoln, Julie London, Gene Vincent And His Blue Caps, Eddie Cochran, The Treniers, Fats Domino, The Platters, and Ray Anthony
Tom gets a phone call at the nightclub to come talk about a job. Since Tom recognizes the address to be in a ritzy part of town, he agrees and that's when he first meets up with O'Brien and gets drawn into the plan; but more importantly, this sequence also includes the first appearance of Jayne Mansfield. She throws open some connecting doors and the director frames her in the doorway. With her perfect hourglass figure, I can only imagine the audience "gasping" when they first saw her on the big screen. Frank Tashlin, the director, who previously directed cartoons, has been quoted as saying "big breasts were some of the funniest things going". GCHI has a lot of of cartoon elements, including a great sight gag sequence as Jayne makes the Iceman's ice melt, the Milkman's milk explode and another man's glasses crack. The below photo from the movie seems to combine Tashlin's thinking about big breasts and a sight gag into one shot.
As with any movie with so many great music acts, everyone will have their favorite(s). I especially liked Little Richard and Fats Domino, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that they are both already two of my favorite performers and I'm thrilled anytime I get to see them. There really wasn't a bad or boring musical performance with any of the acts, which isn't always the case when so many performers are included in one movie. Julie London appears in a sultry dream sequence singing "Cry Me A River" that is still embedded in my brain.
GCHI is available in a DVD box set that includes "The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw" and "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?' OR You can rent it through Netflix OR catch it on The Fox Movie Channel, since it seems they show it at least once a month (sometimes more than once a month!)