Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Girl Can't Help It (1956)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Girl Can't Help It (1956)

In writer/director Frank Tashlin's and Fox's mid-50s satirical, cartoon-like comedy musical starring buxom (42DD) blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield in her best-remembered film at a time when she was competing for top honors with another blonde sexpot, Marilyn Monroe; the role recreated Born Yesterday (1950) - in its story of the hiring of a publicity agent to train a gangster's moll - in this case, to be a rock 'n' roll singing star in just six weeks:

It was filled with ribald sexual humor (racy for its time) and the display of Mansfield's exaggerated hourglass figure that both brought battles with the Production Code Administration. A former cartoonist, Tashlin inserted outrageous, saucy sight-gags into the film, and named his two main characters Tom and Jerri; the film was also a veritable showcase of rock n roll stars in the 1950s, including Little Richard, Fats Domino, Julie London, Eddie Cochran, the Platters, and Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps:

  • in the introduction, bow-tied "small-time theatrical agent" Tom Miller (Tom Ewell) opened the film by walking out onto a open stage to speak to the camera (and break the fourth wall) and to introduce the feature; and then, annoyed with the small sized B/W picture, astonished audiences by literally stretching the black edges of the boxy black and white picture by the flick of his fingers - opening the viewable picture up into the wider, rectangular Cinemascope aspect ratio - and then he commanded that the picture change from B/W to Technicolor - "gorgeous life-like color by DeLuxe!"
  • Tom then stated the purpose of the picture: "Our story is about music, not the music of long ago but the music that expresses the culture, the refinement and the polite grace of the present day" -- next to him, a juke-box played the rock-n-roll title song: "The Girl Can't Help It" - drowning out any further words - and setting up the title credits sequence; the predominance of the juke-box was a comment about how the music industry was dominated by jukebox manufacturers

Tom Miller's (Tom Ewell) Words Drowned Out by Jukebox

The Jukebox Playing Rock-n-Roll Song: "The Girl Can't Help It"
  • the washed-up, bankrupt and impoverished alcoholic publicity agent was summoned to the Park Avenue 15th floor apartment of retired, has-been ex-slot machine gangster Marty "Fats" Murdock (Edmond O'Brien); Tom had a reputation for successfully training singer Julie London and other pretty vocal starlets ("canaries") before he began drinking heavily: ("Once had a great nose for finding new talent. Dug up some big canaries. But the booze got in your way. Couldn't hold on to the canaries, right?"); however, "Fats" complimented Tom on his "hands-off" approach toward his clients: "Besides havin' an eye for talent, you never mix business with pleasure. Kept your hands off the lady clients. That I like"
  • the two viewed an old newsreel of Murdock's past as "the king of the slot machine syndicate" who was taken into custody by the Mayor of New York, while his gambling equipment was raided and confiscated at his Long Island casino, due to a "tip by rival mobster Legs Wheeler (that) resulted in killing 13 of Murdock's mob"; after jumping bail and fleeing from the US to the Riviera to make "whoopee with European bathing beauties," he unwisely returned home, was arrested, and sent to the Atlanta Penitentiary, serving three counts for income tax evasion; "Fats" explained how he used to be "somebody" but now was a has-been: "Nobody remembers Fats no more"
  • Murdock then explained his real motivation - to make a comeback in show-business (for both of them) through his curvaceous blonde moll-bimbo girlfriend/fiancee Jerri Jordan (Jayne Mansfield) (real name Georgiana), an old associate of her father’s; he described her as "a nice, sweet, innocent dame. I'm nuts about her, but she's a nobody. How can I marry a nobody?"
  • his objective, a spoof of the record industry, was to transform Jerri into a rock 'n' roll star and pop sensation ("a big canary") in six weeks (and thus cash in on her popularity), although she had little singing or acting talent besides her voluptuous figure ("That's where you come in. You're gonna make her into a star...So you got nothin' to worry about except to concentrate on buildin' the dame into a big canary. Only remember, hands off, like you got the rep for"); in exchange, Tom would be paid $10,000 to start - plus expenses
  • Tom was unsure he could transform her so quickly, but then she entered wearing a shimmery white dress and a white-fox fur on her shoulder; after one look, he was hooked; "Fats" continued with his pitch: "Tommy boy, I'm puttin' her in your hands, figuratively speaking. You got six weeks to have her a star"; Tom asked for more time: "Six weeks? Oh, easy, Fats. It takes time. Rome wasn't built in a day," but Fats reassured him: "She ain't Rome. What we're talkin' about is already built! Right?"; Tom affirmed: "No argument"; that evening, Tom drank heavily in a nightclub to celebrate and danced with the cigarette girl
Jerri Turning Heads By Her Appearance
  • the next day, Jerri made a spectacular hip-swinging walk (to the tune of "The Girl Can't Help It") down the street (wearing a tight-fitting dark blue dress and broad-rimmed hat) to Tom's apartment building (accompanied by the song "She's Got It" sung by Little Richard); she caused many racy reactions to her sexually-charged appearance; the ice in the back of an iceman's (Henry Kulky) delivery truck melted - and her swiveling moves up the apartment stoop's steps past a milk bottle delivery man (Richard Collier) caused the milk in the bottle to overflow frothily from the top (an ejaculatory metaphor); a downstairs apartment neighbor's eyeglasses shattered
  • Jerri climbed to the second floor for her first meeting with recently-hired agent Tom Miller, who was suffering from a hangover; after entering his unlatched and unlocked front door, she found him in the bedroom, where she held up two recently-delivered glass bottles with fresh milk (picked up from his front door) to her gigantic, well-endowed chest - one in front of each breast - an obvious visual gag, and greeted him: "Good morning, Mr. Miller!" - he was aghast until she explained: "But Mr. Murdock sent me over....So you can start working on me"
  • after Tom bathed and dressed, he found that Jerri was more interested in settling down as a homemaker than learning how to sing with a career in show business; she was in the kitchen making a breakfast of egg souffle for Tom and proclaiming how she was ready for domesticity: "I'm domestic. I hope you like eggs souffle....It's not exactly a breakfast, but it's eggs"
  • while pouring his coffee and serving his meal, she provocatively leaned forward (to reveal cleavage), and explained how she often practiced domestic chores at her own place on the maid's day off: "I figured you for strong coffee... It's one of my favorite pasttimes... cooking... keeping house, you know, keeping everything neat. How's your souffle?...I'm glad you like it, Mr. Miller... You know, sometimes I think I'm mixed up...Mr. Murdock doesn't want me to work. He says I have to be a career....'Pretty'? You should see me in the morning without makeup. I'll show you sometime. 'Pretty' is just how good you apply your base...I just want to be a wife and have kids. But everyone figures me for a sexpot. No one thinks I'm equipped for motherhood!"
  • the next scene in a nightclub was introduced by a number from Little Richard: "Ready Teddy" (standing at a piano); Tom's strategy was to take Jerri to a series of nightclubs to show off her appeal with a slow "build-up" - during this first visit, she was wearing a sexy, form-fitting, and eye-catching red dress; Tom instructed her about 'Operation Powder Room': "Take your stole off and go to the powder room...Just visit a while. But on the way there and back, walk by the reservation desk. That's where the owner hangs out"; he also told her to say nothing except "Ask my agent"; Jerri performed an attention-getting walk to and from the night club's powder room in her stunning red dress for maximum effect during Little Richard's rendition of "She's Got It," passing by the owner Lucas (George Givot) who was immediately impressed, came over and asked about her; Tom remained coy: "She's under wraps...see you around" before leaving
  • at a second nightclub, the Thunder Room, Eddie Fontaine entertained guests, and at a third known as The Hi Hat Club, The Chuckles performed; Tom used the same successful strategy and routine with Jerri at each club, to encourage interest in his new mystery client; in a fourth club, the Late Place Club, Abbey Lincoln (as Herself) performed "Spread the Word, Spread the Gospel" in front of a shimmering dark blue curtain [Note: Later, it was specified that he had picked her up at 9:25 pm and returned her at 2:40 am, after a succession of five nightclubs]
  • shortly later, Tom spoke to Jerri about his successful strategy: "See how the strategy pans out? The first time out, and already four owners are drooling over you"; he expected the gossip papers to soon be abuzz with offers of contracts to follow; after their late night tour of "pub crawlin'", the completely-soused Tom returned Jerri home via cab; she asked if he had a girlfriend: "Why do you drink so much?...A girl habit?"; he replied he had no girl, although she mentioned she knew of his previous former client Julie London (who "wasn't very bright")
  • in the next sequence that same evening, the tipsy Tom returned to his bachelor pad with thoughts of torch singer Julie London (as Herself) on his mind - she had been his greatest discovery; she made an ethereal-ghostly and haunted appearance to him; he had deliberately kept their relationship strictly business, and it resulted in their break-up; he was driven to drink resulting in damage to his managerial career
The Haunting Julie London: "Cry Me a River"

Record Cover: "Julie is her name"

Ghostly Image At His Kitchen Table

On His Living Room Sofa

Lounging On His Bed

At His Fireplace Mantle

On His Staircase
  • Tom had a treasured collection of Julie London's 33 rpm records, and placed one of them - "Julie is her name" on his turntable to play her signature tune "Cry Me a River"; as her song began to play, he poured himself a drink in the kitchen and imagined her slowly materializing before his eyes - haunting and tormenting him in various locations and in suggestive and provocative poses, each time in a different colorful costume throughout his two-story home - he was unable to escape from her; she was visible at his kitchen table, on his living room couch, again in the kitchen, lounging on his bed, standing by his fireplace mantle, and standing partway up his staircase; as she sang the last few lines at his front door hallway, she slowly vanished from sight; he sadly sank down onto his hands at the top of the stairs as the song ended
  • the next day, Jerri (in a bright yellow dress) picked up Tom in a 1957 Lincoln Premiere red convertible for a drive along the coast to an ocean spot for a fried-chicken picnic, where she ran to a small twig of a tree to "undress" (remove her skirt) for a swim; afterwards, while sitting on a blanket with Tom, she described her first meeting with Murdock: "I was just a kid. You know, young, but developed early" - at the Atlanta Penitentiary during visiting day; she went there with her father, one of Murdock's former business associates; later after she'd "grown up," Murdock told her: "Mr. Murdock looked at me funny, and then he told me he was falling in love with me" and "he was gonna make me a somebody"
  • later at Murdock's place, Jerri tended to an outdoor BBQ while Murdock recalled the shootout that killed 13 of his gang members at his house; Tom stated he wanted out of the deal, because Jerri "isn't interested in a career," but Murdock insisted that he create a star out of her like he did with Julie London, who was also uninterested in show-business: "You pushed her into a career she didn't want. Personally, I think you made a mistake. She was a good-lookin' dame. But the point is, she's a big record name now"; at a bar later that night, Tom began to have a haunted vision of Georgiana
  • Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps' "Be Bop A Lula" were rehearsing in the Beaux Arts Rehearsal Hall, when Tom arrived with Jerri in tow, asking: "We need a room - to rehearse in"; Jerri realized Tom's mood had changed and pressured Tom to reveal that he had tried to quit, because he knew singing wasn't in her heart: "I told him I wanted out of our deal. You're not interested in show business. I didn't want to be part of making you anything you didn't want to be...Well, whatever it was, it didn't work....You're going to be Jerri Jordan, girl singer, darling of the jukeboxes whether you want to be, or whether I want you to be. Let's get to work"
  • during a rehearsal, however, he soon realized she sang off-key, and her singing was so awful that she exploded a light bulb in the room; they both chuckled as he affirmed: "You can't sing" - she joined in the laughter: "I know I can't. Have you ever heard anything so awful?...Now he'll have to let you go"; she squealed when he added: "And you don't have to be in show business"; her intentions were to settle down and become a married homemaker - with him
  • Tom reported back to Murdock that Jerri's singing voice was untrainable: ("She can't sing. She just doesn't have a voice") and Jerri joined in: "I stink, Mr. Murdock," but Murdock insisted: "She's gonna be a singer like I want her to. She's gonna be comin' out of every jukebox I put a dime in and I got lots of dimes for puttin' in!"; Tom argued: "Her speaking voice has nothing to do with her singing voice. I'm telling you she can't sing!"; Tom demonstrated again how she could shatter a light bulb with her voice
  • Murdock insisted they watch Eddie Cochran's rockabilly performance of "Twenty Flight Rock" on a TV, and then argued that Cochran's voice was untrained but he was still one of the most popular singers in the country with a "new sound" - he concluded and ordered: "So Jerri's got a new sound. You cut a record with her tomorrow"
  • Murdock suggested that Jerri sing one of his own songs composed while he was in prison for the annual X-mas show, not ""No Lights on the Christmas Tree, Mother. They're Using the Electric Chair Tonight," nor "I'll Get No Good Behavior, Baby, If I Keep Thinking of You," but "Rock Around the Rock Pile" - a parody of "Rock Around the Clock"
  • in a recording studio, Jerri provided the sound effects of a prison siren scream ("Woo!") during the singing of Murdock's song, performed by male crooner Ray Anthony (as Himself) with his band; Tom reluctantly planned to take the record to Wheeler Music Enterprises in Chicago, to promote it to Legs Wheeler (John Emery), the head of the jukebox industry and business who was also Mudock's ex-rival mobster
  • as Tom and Jerri were getting to know each other, she hinted and mentioned how she wanted to settle down and have a large family of children with him, now that a career in show-business was unlikely: "I like a large family. Don't you, Mr. Miller? Oh, I hope I have a large family - I mean, it's fun"
  • on Thanksgiving Day, as Jerri was cooking up a turkey meal for Tom, Fats appeared with suspicions about her: ("It's like I don't trust her and him. She's a good cook, and I got a feelin' something's cookin'"); she hid the evidence of her cooking, and pretended that she had been taking a shower; he invited her out for Thanksgiving dinner, while his associate Mousie (Henry Jones) was ordered to wire-tap and listen in to her phone calls
  • later that night, Tom called from Chicago telling Jerri how he was delayed a week in seeing Wheeler, and missed Thanksgiving dinner with her, but would be back the next day; they both expressed longing for each other: Jerri: "Oh, I miss you, Mr. Miller. It's been over a week." Tom: "I miss you too, Georgie"; she sobbed after hanging up; later when Mousie played back the tape for Murdock, he edited out the parts that would be incriminating (he was sympathetic to their feelings for each other), but Murdock was still suspicious that Tom would move in on his girl if she failed singing: "Something's wrong. I know I figured right...They-They gotta be soft-talkin' each other!"
  • when Tom finally met with Wheeler and auditioned the song "Rock Around the Rock Pile," Wheeler asked about the "weird siren sound" and learned it came from Tom's female client; he responded favorably: "Voice like that will catch on. This girl will be a star. I definitely want to sign her to a long-term contract. Mmm! I like the song also"; but when he learned the song was written by his long-time rival "Fats" Murdock, Tom was physically thrown out of the building by his two hitmen Lawrence and Eugene, and suffered an injured face
  • upon his return, the ailing Tom was suspiciously found wearing Jerri's red and white striped pajamas (a Christmas present brought for her brothers) in her bed, and the apron-wearing Jerri was serving him spoonfuls of buillon; Murdock was furiously jealous and Jerri fought back ("Now, I was just giving him bouillon, you dumb dummy!"); she poured the pot of hot bouillon over his head
  • when Murdock cooled down, he learned from Tom that Wheeler liked Jerri's "singing" but hated that the song was written by Murdock; he ordered a "cold hot war"; he proceeded to strong-arm bar owners into purchasing jukeboxes from him instead of Wheeler, in order to promote his song "Rock Around the Rock Pile" (with Jerri's bit part); Murdock''s Musik jukeboxes were moved in to replace Wheeler's, mostly in the New York area; to retaliate and prevent further spread of the jukeboxes, Wheeler planned to assassinate his rival at the Rock & Roll Jubilee where Jerri would be performing the song in her debut performance; the record had sold over 1,000,000 platters in 3 weeks
  • at the Jubilee, rock icon Fats Domino was also a headliner, singing "Blue Monday" and the Platters sang "You'll Never, Never Know"; on the way to the Jubilee, Murdock was planning on forcing Jerri to marry him, with tickets for a honeymoon; Mousie confessed he had doctored the "soft-talk" on the taped phone call between Jerri and Tom; he also encouraged Murdock to let Tom and Jerri get married since they were really in love with each other
  • by the end of the film, basically a love story, Jerri revealed that she truly loved her nebbish agent Tom, who had become smitten by her; Tom passionately kissed her before she was about to be forced to marry Murdock and go on a honeymoon with him; he was ready to leave (he had a "train on tap")
  • in the finale, Jerri was about to perform in her debut with the song "Rock Around the Rock Pile", but she announced a change in the program; instead, she sang (her voice was dubbed) the dreamy song: "Ev'ry Time It Happens" accompanied by Ray Anthony and his band, about her love for Tom
  • to his utter surprise, when Tom confessed that he had just kissed Jerri and was completely in love with her, Murdock congratulated him, shook his hand, and offered to be his best man; Wheeler arrived with a gun threatening to kill Murdock; to save him from being shot in front of everyone, Tom pushed Murdock on stage in front of the large audience to sing his own composition: "Rock Around the Rock Pile" - and Wheeler was so impressed that he made an about-face, and offered a singing contract to Murdock ("Don't shoot. We'll sign him. That's talent up there") instead of to Jerri; at the same time, Jerri admitted to Tom that she really could sing, but had deliberately faked that she couldn't so that she could get away from Murdock ("I always could sing. I thought if I was real awful, I'd get out of owing him")
  • the film concluded with Tom and Jerri kissing on their honeymoon (in the background on a TV, Murdock and Mousie were performing)

Jerri and Tom Kissing on Their Honeymoon

Murdock and Mousie Performing on Television in Their Room
  • the film (similar to the film's opening) closed with Tom, Jerri, and their many children on stage; Murdock joined them and was greeted by the children as "Uncle Fats," and they urged him: "Sing for us, Uncle Fats"; he pointed to Tom and replied: "Ask my agent"; Fats was refused by Tom who instead suggested: "Let them buy your records"; to take the spotlight in a cartoonish bit, Murdock - like the cartoon character Porky Pig ("That's all folks!") - stepped through the enclosing frame of the final shot, walked forward through the black, now-empty space to directly address the audience: "Don't listen to him, folks. I'll see ya outside in the lobby when you leave. I'll sing anything you want. I'm a Jim-Dandy singer." Then, he grabbed a cigar from somewhere, as the title song began to play
Film's Unique Closing

Opening: Widened and in "Color by DeLuxe!"

Tom's Meeting with "Fats" Murdock (Edmond O'Brien)

Tom's Startled First Look at Blonde Moll Bimbo Jerri Jordan (Jayne Mansfield)

Milk Bottles (Visual Pun): Lactating Joke

Pouring Coffee

Jerri Leaning Forward (with cleavage): "No one thinks I'm equipped for motherhood"

Little Richard: "Ready Teddy" (standing at piano)

"Operation Powder Room" - Removing Her Fur Stole

Jerri's Walk to and From the Powder Room - To the Tune of "She's Got It"

In a Third Nightclub - The Same Routine

In the 4th Nightclub, Abbey Lincoln Sang: "Spread the Word, Spread the Gospel"

Undressing (Removing Skirt) at Picnic Spot Before a Swim and Fried-Chicken Picnic

Tom's Haunted Vision of Georgiana

Jerri Singing "Do-Re-Mi" Scales Off-Key

"I stink, Mr. Murdock"

Recording Studio: Jerri Providing Sound of Prison Siren in "Rock Around the Rock Pile"

Jerri: "I hope I have a large family - I mean, it's fun"

Murdock's Associate Mousie Listened in to Jerri's Phone Call from Tom in Chicago

Jerri Tending to Injured Tom in Bed - Caught by Murdock

Jerri's Debut Singing Performance at Rock & Roll Jubilee

Fats' Domino and the Platters: "Blue Monday"

Jerri with Tom - Passionate Kissing Before Her Forced Wedding to Murdock

Jerri: "Ev'ry Time It Happens"

Murdock: "Rock Around the Rock Pile"


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