Daily Archives: July 1, 2006

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

From the Chicago Reader (July 21, 2006). — J.R.

Made at Fox on the heels of The Girl Can’t Help It, this inventive 1957 comedy by Frank Tashlin is his most avant-garde (surpassing even Son of Paleface) and probably his most political — and therefore one of his most misunderstood. Tashlin adapted a Broadway play by George Axelrod, discarding almost everything but the title, the advertising milieu, and actress Jayne Mansfield. Shot in glorious color and CinemaScope, the film stars Tony Randall as a Madison Avenue executive who recruits Mansfield to endorse his product, and it presents a thoughtful and multifaceted polemic against the success ethic (a key line: “Success will fit you like a shroud”). Like Chaplin’s A King in New York, released the same year, the movie delivers a devastating caricature of 50s America; both directors, anticipating Jean-Luc Godard’s journalistic directive that one can — and must — place everything in a film, created dystopian versions of New York in which TV and advertising (rightly perceived as synonymous) obliterate the divisions between public and private. In keeping with George S. Kaufman’s maxim that “satire is what closes on Saturday night,” Rock Hunter flopped at the box office and was disastrous for Tashlin’s career.… Read more »

Western Culture Coming and Going [THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT & WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?]

From the July 21, 2006 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

The Case of the Grinning Cat

*** (A must see)

Directed and written by Chris Marker

Narrated by Gerard Rinaldi

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

**** (Masterpiece)

Directed and written by Frank Tashlin

With Tony Randall, Jayne Mansfield, Betsy Drake, Joan Blondell, John Williams, Henry Jones, and Mickey Hargitay

Two cheery, even hilarious works that are informed by a surrealist spirit are showing this week at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Each says plenty about what’s wrong with the world, yet neither has a villain.

The Case of the Grinning Cat is a wise, somewhat whimsical hour-long video — a political commentary on Western culture by independent French writer-director Chris Marker, who turns 85 next week. From 2001 to 2004 he taped ephemeral phenomena on the streets of Paris — graffiti, posters, political demonstrations, glimpses of cats and musicians in metro stations — as he explored issues ranging from 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq to more local concerns. It’s all framed by a reverie about cartoon Cheshire cats that mysteriously appear in unexpected places, rather like the proliferating post horns in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?Read more »