Fall 2016

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25 Q4 2016 / CINEMONTAGE by Edward Landler A udiences first heard the nascent Rock 'n' Roll music in the movies in March 1955, when Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" played over the credits of Richard Brooks' Blackboard Jungle. They had to wait a whole year, however, to see the song actually performed by the band on the screen when the Comets and other groups appeared in the movie Rock Around the Clock in March 1956. Low- budget projects exploiting the new music soon followed. Later that year, on December 1, 20th Century-Fox premiered a Rock 'n' Roll picture with what was then an A-picture budget of $1,310,000. In its review, Variety acknowledged, "While there are a number of Rock 'n' Roll features plying the market, The Girl Can't Help It is the first deluxe version to make release." To confirm the point, producer/director/writer Frank Tashlin opens the film with star Tom Ewell in a tuxedo standing in a standard 35mm black-and- white frame. The actor addresses us seriously about the movie and its music as the screen stretches out to "the grandeur of Cinemascope." The picture switches to "gorgeous life-like Color by DeLuxe," and Ewell is drowned out by Little Richard's voice blaring out of a garish jukebox singing the title song. Noting that Tashlin "concentrated on creating fun for the juniors," Variety added, "The suspicion lurks that he also poked some fun at the current dance beat craze and the artists who deliver it." However, from today's perspective, 60 years after it was made, the movie's brash humor clearly subverts 1950s mainstream assumptions about popular music. Showcasing white rockers and black rhythm-and-blues performers, this story of a gangster hiring a promoter (Ewell) to make a pop music star of his girlfriend (played by the spectacularly proportioned Jayne Mansfield) also THIS QUARTER IN FILM HISTORY Sex, Race and Rock 'n' Roll The Girl Can't Help It. 20th Century-Fox/ Photofest The Girl Can't Help It. 20th Century-Fox

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