Culture

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Any More

By Bernie Bell

I saw that ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ was on the ‘Talking Pictures’ channel on the telly, so recorded it to watch when we wanted something easy of an evening. I had a vague memory of it being entertaining froth, with some good music.  It was a very vague memory, as I’d seen the film a long time ago.  Not when it first came out – I’m not that old!  But it was a long time, and a vague memory.

We’d had a good Sunday gardening, didn’t feel like being enlightened or informed – wanted entertaining froth – so we settled down after tea to watch ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ – and it didn’t disappoint – good music – including, as I’d remembered, Little Richard and Fats Domino.  Somehow……… how could I?  I’d forgotten that Gene Vincent is there, with his Blue Caps, looking and sounding Oh so cool and groovy.  Also, Julie London singing ‘Cry Me A River’. We re-wound and listened to her again.

There were so many instances while watching that film, when I said ”They don’t make ‘me like that anymore”. Starting with Little Richard – there was no-one like him, and there is no-one like him. Julie London –  these days Adele comes close, but in the film, the way Julie is shown sort-of ‘haunting’ Tom Miller – drifting in and out of his awareness while singing that song – is something else.  And in a set of stunning outfits too.

I might get into trouble for saying this in these ‘correct’ to the point of being restrictive times,  but there’s also how she looks – such style – such…shape!

Speaking of which, the main female character in the film, Jerri Jordan, played by Jayne Mansfield – well, when Tom Miller says to the paper-boy  “She’s just a girl”, the paper-boy answers – “If she’s a girl, I don’t know what my sister is!”

I wouldn’t want to dress that way – how does she breathe?  But – what a look, and what a mover!

Near the beginning of the film, there a snippet of a song by The Ditty Bops ………

“If I could shimmy like my sister Kate

Shake it like a bowl of jelly on a plate.”

….that’s how Jayne moves across the screen.

That song put me in mind of Jack Lemmon in ‘Some Like It Hot’, watching Marilyn Monroe walking along the platform in a railway station and commenting that it was like watching Jell-O on springs.  And he meant it as a compliment – it was just fiiiine for women to be curvy in those days – pre – 1960’s and Twiggy.  Nothing against Twiggy, but I couldn’t help thinking that she could do with eating a few good dinners.

Jayne Mansfield plays Jerri Jordan very much as Marilyn might have done, and I wonder if maybe the part was written with Marilyn in mind, but the film makers chose Jayne instead – and she did it proud.

The film is very much of its time with lines such as  “Cool it man – make like an Eskimo,”  and there’s a lot about that time that appeals to me – mainly the music, but also the styles – for men as well as women.   A – to me – slightly strange taste for voluminous tops in men’s trousers, but that’s fashion for you! 

We thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’, have kept it in the machine to watch again, and I can’t get ‘Cry Me A River’ out of my head.

They don’t make ‘em like that anymore  – films like that, music like that, ‘stars’ like that.  The hep ‘Cats & Kittens’ of that time were stylish – such style.

I don’t usually go for style over substance, but this film has both. And humour too.

Enough froth to be entertaining, but enough ‘body’ to hold it together. And I’m not just talking about Ms. Mansfield!

Image taken from ‘The Rock ‘N’ Roll Age’ by Mike Evans, where it’s captioned……’Jayne Mansfield strikes a seductive pose in a promotional shot for ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’

They’re not kidding!

ED’s Note

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