Archive for Jayne Mansfield

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold — Cream

Posted in Fashion, FILM, MUSIC, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2021 by dcairns

Here’s Shadowplayer Chris Schneider on a late, and underappreciated Frank Tashlin/Doris Day picture…

” … I forgot to mention the sexuality, the anarchy — and the fashion.”~ FB friend Larry Frascella talking of CAPRICE

When I think of CAPRICE, a Frank Tashlin comedy-thriller from the late Sixties, it usually involves one of three things. One: Doris Day in an out-of-control helicopter whose pilot has just been shot, the thought of which terrifies this fear-of-heights sufferer.Two: the unsettling sight of Michael J. Pollard, soon to appear in BONNIE AND CLYDE, with his hand venturing up Doris Day’s leg. Three: Ray Walston in drag. 

“Cary Grant or Rock Hudson maybe,” I say to myself, “but Michael J. Pollard?”

(An Aside: You’ll find so-called “spoilers” in this piece. My reasoning is that, some fifty years after its premiere, anyone interested in CAPRICE is unlikely to be concerned with plot.)

You could say that CAPRICE has an autumnal feel, in that it’s the next-to-last film to be shot in Cinemascope and the third-from-last theatrical film to feature Doris Day. Soon, for Day, it would be strictly television. But that doesn’t fit, ’cause the palette on display in CAPRICE is determinedly bright. Day’s Ray Aghayan wardrobe pretty much never varies from white or red or buttercup yellow, and to go with that there’s music by Robert Aldrich’s pet composer De Vol. (“Smile when you say that name, stranger.”

Yet this is, nevertheless, a spy story, and therein lies the balance. Day plays an industrial spy for one, if not two, rival cosmetics firms.  “The spy who came in from the cold — cream,” she calls herself at one point. The story’s shifting alliances fit in with a mid-’60s John Le Carre world-view, for all the emphasis on comedy and the fact that a man is asked to remove his trousers within the film’s first six minutes. Does Day work for Edward Mulhare, an industrial toff with his own private jet, or rival honcho Jack Kruschen? Answer: What time is it? There’s a Wham! Slam! Ka-Boom! triple-cross in the final reel. There’s also, lest we forget, Ray Walston in washerwoman drag looking mean as he holds a gun.

Nor should we forget that the romantic interest, Richard Harris as an industrial spy and/or Interpol agent who also does Olivier and Richard Burton imitations, jabs Day early on with a non-consensual hypo full of Sodium Pentothal. A tad “rapey,” you say? Perhaps the vigilant will be glad to learn that the last reel’s “romantic” fade-out has Day giving Harris his own non-consensual Sodium Pentothal jab, intoning to him about “a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

Much of CAPRICE is “funny odd” rather than “funny ha-ha.” It’s also highly self-conscious, Ouroboros-like in willingness to comment upon itself like a snake devouring its own tail. Not a surprise, in that other Tashlin-directed films include a poodle named Shamroy (after CAPRICE cinematographer Leon Shamroy) and name-checking of star Jayne Mansfield’s non-Tashlin films. But this one has a BATMAN-like chase running past a television that’s playing BATMAN, Day tailing Irene Tsu (who plays Walston’s secretary) to a theater where the fare is CAPRICE with Doris Day and Richard Harris — that’s where the Pollard scene happens — and the revelation that a supposedly inaccessible parlay is being filmed when we see the film’s image running out. Is it unexpected, given the presence of Shanghai-born Tsu, that the movie encounter happens in the Cathay theater? Or that half of a nearby couple attempting a li’l movie-house grope is Barbara Feldon of the spy comedy series GET SMART? 

CAPRICE was not popular.  The NY Times’ Bosley Crowther dismissed it, saying that “nutty clothes and acrobatics cannot conceal the fact that [Day] is no longer a boy.” As if anyone ever mistook Day for a boy! Or went to Day when looking for one!

I think the problem, rather, is that CAPRICE — like its central performer — is all too strenuously perky. Sorta like the protagonist of that John Cheever story, the one who insists on lining up chairs at parties and jumping over them like hurdles … long after his athletic prowess is a thing of the past.  See television adaptations involving Gary Merrill and, later, Michael Murphy. 

Like that out-of-control helicopter, CAPRICE has the capacity to be scary.  Then, too, like what happens to the helicopter, CAPRICE settles for cute and “endearing” plot solutions. Alas.

The Rock

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2010 by dcairns

I have self-satisfaction coming out of my ears. Yes, as I peruse my brand-new, still-warm edition of the Masters of Cinema BluRay of WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?, an emotion akin to third-degree smugness creeps from the dank recesses of my id and leaves complacent footsteps all over my ego and superego. The reason being the three — count ’em! — three “essays” crammed into the compact accompanying booklet, each of them authored — personally — by my brain and forelimbs.

That’s not the primary reason to buy the thing, though — you should buy it for the movie itself, a crackerjack box of visual gags, satirical sideswipes and exuberant, nimble comic performances (Randall! Mansfield! Blondell!) and Gorgeous Life-like Color by Deluxe! After watching the thing, my eyeballs feel like they should be sealed in a  lead-lined box for a thousand years before it’s safe for them to look at anyone again. That thing has the platonic ideal of all your basic colours, with the brightness turned up to eleventeen.

You also get a video intro by arch-Tashlinite Joe Dante, the trailer, a Mansfield newsreel, and an alternative audio track, and a text interview with legend Tony Randall, conducted by Ethan DeSeife.

Just watched my copy, and Fiona and I were oohing and aahing at the colours like early cinemagoers experiencing projected images for the first time. An observation from Fiona I wish I’d been able to include in my essay: when Betsy Drake goes Mansfield-mad and starts making that high-pictched EEEOOH! noise associate with J.M., it’s as disturbing as Mercedes McCambridge’s revoicing of Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST. Tashlin’s comedy hovers near the boundaries of nightmare.

In stores October 25th — buy it now via my link and make me slightly more financially secure —

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? [Masters of Cinema] [Blu-ray]

Carradine Strikes Out

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by dcairns

Consider this a sequel, of sorts, to that long-ago post, Ten Bad Dates With Roddy McDowell. This time, it’s John Carradine who doesn’t seem set to enjoy much luck.

Give up now, John!

The movie is FEMALE JUNGLE, a profoundly silly title for a not quite so silly movie, essentially a retread of BLACK ANGEL. Here it’s homicide cop Lawrence Tierney who fears he may have committed murder during an alcoholic blackout, which is pretty much the most serious faux pas a homicide cop can make. Apart from the always-intense Tierney (a guy who really did go nuts with a drink inside him) and Carradine (who looks GOOD in those specs, damnit — they add another, previously missing dimension to his head), there’s “And Introducing” Jayne Mansfield, who actually acts in a convincing human manner here, rather than deploying the light-comedy fembot style she made so much her own later.

Seen in the clip with Carradine is former beauty queen Kathleen Crowley, who’s quite moving and vulnerable in a Patricia Medina kind of way — her argument scenes with her husband, (screenwriter star Burt Kaiser) are so circular and illogical and poorly-written as to be actually a pretty convincing evocation of the average domestic tiff between people who have just plain gotten into the habit of fighting.

Nice atmos of late-night grime.

Images from 10Kbullets.com.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? [Masters of Cinema] [Blu-ray]