Friday, June 24, 2011

It'll just lead to a series of lousy romantic comedies

TCM asks, and I suppose the movie itself answers, the question you've all been wondering about: Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, tonight at 8:00 PM.

Rock Hunter refers not to your favorite closeted actor, but to an advertising executive named Rockwell Hunter, played by Tony Randall (who, interestingly enough, would go on to do the same sort of romantic comedies with Doris Day that Rock Hunter the actor did). Rockwell is in a bad way, as he needs a successful ad campaign to perk up his career. Help may be on the way, however, as he's found out where the blond bombshell Rita Marlowe (Jayne Mansfield) is staying in New York; with any luck, Rockwell can get Rita to endorse the lipstick for which Rockwell has the advertising contract. Rita agrees, although with a big condition. She's got a boyfriend Bobo (Mickey Hargitay) who's a TV Tarzan-type, there for his muscles and not his brains. Rita will endorse the lipstick if Rockwell agrees to pretend to be her new boyfriend, as she wants to make Bobo jealous.

Rockwell agrees, and when Rita refers to him as her "Lover Doll", it quickly makes world headlines. This revives Rockwell's flagging career, but produces a whole bunch of other problems. He's got a niece (Lili Gentile) for whom he's trying to be a good influence, and a fiancée (Betsy Drake) who obviously has her own problems with the phony relationship-for-the-media. For a while, none of this matters, however, as Rockwell gets the one thing he thinks he's been looking for: the key to the executive washroom. (Yes, the ad firm really does have a separate executive washroom, and makes as big a deal over the key as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World does over the the palm trees that form the Big W.) But life at the top is never quite what it seems.

The title of the post might give you the impression that I don't like Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, but that wouldn't be the case. It's just those Doris Day romantic comedies that I find irritating. As for tonight's movie, it's certainly a product of its time. The folks making movies often didn't like television, as they considered it a threat, and there's quite a bit of pointed satire on the subject here. That, and on the business world -- there's that whole key to the executive washroom thing that I mentioned above. But at times, it seems as though the movie is trying to do a bit too much, what with Tony Randall having to deal with three women, a boss, and Mansfield's boyfriend. This is the sort of material Randall was good at, though; and Mansfield is not as bad as she's often portrayed as being.

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