Retro: The Unquiet American


Frank Tashlin
USA 1957
92 min

Made at Fox on the heels of <![CDATA[<i>]]>The Girl Can’t Help It<![CDATA[</i>]]>, this inventive comedy by Frank Tashlin is his most avant-garde and probably his most political – and therefore one of his most misunderstood. Tashlin adapted a Broadway play by George Axelrod but ­discarded almost everything except the title, the advertising milieu, and star 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 <![CDATA[<i>]]>A King in New York<![CDATA[</i>]]>, also released in 1957, the movie delivers a devastating ­caricature of 1950s 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”, <![CDATA[<i>]]>Rock Hunter<![CDATA[</i>]]> flopped at the box office and was disastrous for Tashlin’s career. But to paraphrase Roberto Rossellini, both it and <![CDATA[<i>]]>A King in New York<![CDATA[</i>]]> are the films of free men. With Betsy Drake, Joan Blondell, Henry Jones, Mickey Hargitay, and a surreal cameo near the end by Groucho Marx.

[i](Chicago Reader; adapted from contribution to ­
“Frank Tashlin”, edited by Roger Garcia and Bernard ­Eisenschitz, Éditions du festival international du film de Locarno, 1994)[/i]

  • Tony Randall - Rockwell Hunter
  • Jayne Mansfield - Rita Marlowe
  • Betsy Drake - Jenny Wells
  • Joan Blondell - Violet Summers
  • Mickey Hargitay - Bobo Branagansky
Frank Tashlin

Twentieth Century Fox c/o Hollywood Classics 8 Cleveland Gardens London W2 6HA, Großbritannien T 20 7262 46 46

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