In the era of high-definition concert videos, where you can see the individual beads of sweat, nothing seems unique The girl couldn’t help it. Referred to as the “blonde bombshell” Jayne Mansfieldfirst starring role, in a 1956 musical comedy featuring a series of rock and roll icons performed with all their heart in vivid, widescreen technical colors. It’s a joy for modern viewers to look at Little Richard, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, The Platters, And Lincoln Abbey in one place, but nothing revolutionary when we have YouTube at our fingertips.
However, for the 1950s audience, The Girls Can’t Hold It is a literal cultural reset. Because full-length concert films don’t exist and Elvis Presley having only one film credit, this mediocre comedy is the only way rock and roll fans can see their idols in person. The disembodied voices emerging from the record player suddenly reveal faces in loving, cinematic close-ups, their physical demeanor as dynamic as their charisma as their volcanic vocals. That girl bills itself as “a story about music”, and while its plot satirizes industry, it’s also a celebration of rock and roll so visceral it metaphorically tears down homes. It’s a very powerful film, it delivers the Beatles. But how?
What’s ‘Girls Can’t Hold It’ About?
From a structural perspective, The girl couldn’t help it qualifies as two different films thrown together. It’s 50% comedy and 50% musical montage, and the two never overlap. Comedy narrative follows Jayne Mansfield’s Jerri Jordan, a socialite who is the girlfriend of mobster Marty “Fats” Murdock (Edmond O’Brien) schemes to make him a famous musician. The thing is, Jerri can’t sing for love or money. Murdock, the world’s most exaggerated New York accent, doesn’t care. He hires the less fortunate talent scout, Tom Miller (Tom Ewell) to manage Jerri’s career on the condition that Tom is not romantically involved with Jerri. Release the mafia girl, or there will be consequences! Tom, for his part, is an alcoholic bereaved by his career low and failed romances. Tom and Jerri (insert joke here) break the rules by capturing feelings, but not before their endless jokes about Jerri’s sex appeal. (More on that later.)
Then, there is the musical section. Most 1950s musicals were the gold standard of MGM productions My Fair Lady And Music sound. Characters sing through the story and are played, or dubbed, by qualified singers. That girl distinguished itself from tradition by letting established musicians handle the show while the actors stayed on their toes. Numbers take place in a nightclub with a lavish backdrop and careful cinematography while Jerri and Tom watch. Jerri doesn’t take the stage until the second to last scene. Separating qualified musicians from actors who don’t like music is an interesting choice and brings out the incredible talent of each singer. That girl’S the plot could exist without this show, but it would be a much smaller film for that.
So how did an icon as big and influential as The Beatles play a role? Well, John Lennon was sixteen years old when The girl couldn’t help it reached Liverpool, England in the summer of 1957. Like every famous artist, Lennon was a fan first and a musician second. He adored the likes of Little Richard and Fats Domino. Seeing them as living and breathing beings That girl inspired Lennon to follow his dreams and musical form Diggersrock group consisting of Lennon and his classmates.
Lennon wasn’t the only would-be Beatles member to be captivated by the film’s score. When young Paul McCartney auditioning for The Quarrymen, he imitated Eddie Cochran’s rhythm guitar technique in “Twenty Flight Rock”, a song written for the film. Impressed, Lennon recruited McCartney. History was made, and The Quarrymen went on to grow into The Beatles, a small band you may have heard of that rewritten the rules of the music industry.
Focusing on the Musicians Makes ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ Unique
Next question: what to make That girl a thrilling experience for these Liverpool kids? Writer-director Frank Taslin produces a widescreen Cinemascope aspect ratio for all its values. He uses long takes, slow tracking shots, and close-ups throughout the film’s musical number. Each performance lasts the length of the song with the singer maintaining maximum eye contact with the camera, and there are very few interruptions. Tashlin adored musicians or wanted to give them the dues they deserved. Either way, the intentionality has the singers burning up the screens with this jaw-dropping musical number. Little Richard’s first screen gig was the definition of fire, while Lincoln’s Abbey charm oozed from celluloid. Tashlin isn’t overly flashy with fancy camera work or frenzied editing; he lets the music sing for itself, and that makes all the difference.
In addition, black musicians created rhythm-and-blues, which developed into rock and roll, which was later adapted to white culture. At least half of That girlthe featured artist was a black pioneer of the genre. One socially dated film from 1956 isn’t a magic solution to racism and capitalist inequality, but That girl perpetuating the unshakable screen evidence that black singers created and defined what we know everyday as rock music.
As for the Beatles, all four adored Little Richard and imitated his chord progressions. But their careers might have been very different had they not opened for Richard on his 1962 tour. Richard even coached McCartney’s developing vocals. In McCartney’s words, “We [idolized] these people and we always thought they were given bad treatment – until The girl couldn’t help it.“
That girl nor is it unfairly presupposing that smitten teenage fans are “bad teens.” Rock was popular enough to make movies capitalize on its success, but a group of very loud adults who were offended by Elvis’ dance moves still believed the genre was evil, and they stereotyped its fan base. The girl couldn’t help it it embraces rock and roll’s natural energy, includes sexual overtones (or overtones), but doesn’t layer an agenda over them. The music is what it is.
1950s Sexism Strikes Again
Spinning back to that plot – Mansfield is undoubtedly beautiful, but the cringe-inducing joke is based solely on Jerri’s over-the-top good looks. Do we really need a montage of sashaying down the street while men display hilarious, slapstick-level reactions? Similarly, Tom paraded her all over the club and men glanced at her in droves. Jerri received a ton of contract offers, so the joke is on those creeps, but the tired “very wow hot woman” routine gets crushed to the floor. Other movies knock women out in far more insidious ways, and so on That girlhumor need not be considered evil. However, it still raises the age-old distinction between rewards and exploits.
To the film’s credit, Jerri sneaks past the goofy blonde caricature in surprising fashion. Her soft, sighing voice was one of a pretense, and she had absolutely no illusions about her relationship with Murdock. He feels he owes it to an older man for his past kindness. Jerri didn’t seem bothered by this fact, just resigned, but he didn’t realize its connotations either. Jayne Mansfield wanted a role that didn’t make her a sex symbol but couldn’t escape the box Hollywood gave her, which made her That girlextra smart bland ingredients.
Overall, Jerri has a lot of interiority. Another glaring problem was the fact that he didn’t want a career. Jerri wanted to be a full housewife with the whole shebang of a husband and kids, and in fact Murdock was pursuing fame by proxy. Others sad for Jerri see her as a “sexpot” and therefore unsuited for motherhood, which is the real malarkey weight the film exclaims when Jerri gets her happy domestic ending. She chooses what she wants, and what she wants isn’t wrong, but it also feels suspicious for a 1950s movie plot revolving around a woman who rejects a career in favor of becoming a home-focused nanny.
Art Inspires New Art
The film’s impact doesn’t stop there with The Beatles. Little Richard, Fats Domino and Eddie Cochran have also inspired rock giants Led Zeppelins. their concert film The song remains the same owes its existence to That girlwhile Paul McCartney shared an anecdote that the four Beatles rushed to make their song “Birthday” so they could come home and watch The girl couldn’t help it BBC premiered in 1968.
The media has no shortage of artists who pay homage to their inspirations, but The girl couldn’t help it crystallize the importance of art. Something as small as a summer day at the movies can set off a chain reaction resulting in bands that revolutionize the music industry. Without access to the art that inspires us, many creative people may never pursue their dreams — and the world will be lower for it. The girl couldn’t help it the thesis statement is true: this is a story about music, but also about love, marriage, and family… and unfortunately sexism.