Saturday, October 5, 2013

Popularity Contest

Sheree North in How to Be Very, Very Popular (20th Century Fox, 1955)

"Sheree North, going great guns, is signed, sealed, and will be delivered for the starring role in Garson Kanin's Do Re Mi, a rock and roll racketeering story with racketeers trying to muscle into the music business. Frank Tashlin will produce and direct for 20th Century..." -- Hedda Hopper's column, July 12, 1956

"When you get some good comedy situations in a picture, you're glad you're in it. I don't have the comedy in my latest...but I do in the next, Do Re Mi...when I read the story, I never dreamed I'd get to do it!" -- Sheree North in Aline Mosby's column, August 20, 1956

Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can't Help It [originally announced as Do Re Mi] (20th Century Fox, 1956)
"[Sheree North] is a very competent little actress. We don't compete for the same parts." -- Jayne Mansfield to columnist Aline Mosby, September 20, 1956


Jayne Mansfield in It Happened in Athens (20th Century Fox, 1962)

Jayne Mansfield publicity photo for Hell on Frisco Bay (Warner Bros., 1955)
"Oh, I couldn't be happier! [20th Century Fox] is so nice...Frank Tashlin said he had to have me for Do Re Mi...so [Fox] bought the play [Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?] and got me out of [my Broadway contract], and here I am!" -- Jayne Mansfield to columnist Bob Thomas, September 26, 1956

Sheree North in How to Be Very, Very Popular (20th Century Fox, 1955)
Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can't Help It (20th Century Fox, 1956)


10 comments:

  1. It is interesting that "Do Re Mi" somehow morphed into "The Girl Can't Help It," considering that "Do Re Mi" eventually became a Broadway musical in 1960. I suppose "The Girl Can't Help It" is a very loose interpretation of "Do Re Mi." They both have to do with the pop music and juke box business, and they both have a young lady who becomes a singing star (although in "Girl" the young lady is known for her siren sound as opposed to actually singing).

    Do you know why they just didn't stick with "Do Re Mi" for Jayne? And was the original script for "Do Re Mi" the movie closer to "The Girl Can't Help It" than it was for the later Broadway musical?

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    1. In all of the newspaper clippings I could find, the film was still referred to as "Do Re Mi" as late as November -- and "The Girl Can't Help It" was released in December. I suspect that it was at least planned as a more literal adaptation of the source material, if not actually scripted that way -- 75% of the news articles specifically and pointedly mention Garson Kanin's story. And here's an interesting tidbit: Kanin apparently pitched the idea of "Do Re Mi" as a screenplay, prior to publishing it as a story, to Columbia in 1952 -- as a vehicle for Judy Garland!! Obviously, rock and roll was still a twinkle in the public consciousness' eyes, so the premise would have been to have pop stars like Patti Page, Jo Stafford, Joni James, et al., as the musical guests.

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    2. Wow! It could have totally worked with a pop music angle instead of the early rock and roll angle.

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  2. Hey TJB. And do you know why the role went from Sheree to Jayne ??

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    1. Originally, Nunnally Johnson (who had directed Sheree in "How to Be Very, Very Popular") was announced as the director of "Do Re Mi." When Frank Tashlin became attached to the picture, I think he insisted on Jayne. He had a cartoonist's sensibility, and he knew that Jayne's outlandish figure would be the ultimate visual joke. Giving credit where credit is due, the pull and power of Jayne's publicity must have been HUGE at the time for Fox to buy her out of her "Rock Hunter" Broadway contract and give her a major starring role -- up to that point, she'd only done a few bits for Warners and was more or less an untested quantity, whereas Sheree had not only garnered a lot of publicity as "the successor to Monroe," but her films, although not viewed with much respect in hindsight, were actually profitable. "How to Be Very, Very Popular" is regarded with near-disdain nowadays, but although it received mixed reviews, it was a commercial success and was still playing in first-run theaters a year after its initial release; and Sheree's second film at Fox, "The Lieutenant Wore Skirts" (also directed by Tashlin, who I suppose wasn't sufficiently impressed by North's assets), was one of the studio's highest grossers of the year! So for Fox to bump Sheree in favor of Jayne really speaks to Jayne's powerful personality. And while I do think Jayne was the best choice to carry out Tashlin's vulgar vision, Sheree was a much better actress, and would have done a good, more subtle job with Nunnally Johnson at the helm, probably doing more of a Chicago gangster's moll interpretation (think a cross between Judy Holliday's Billie Dove and Lesley Ann Warren's Norma Cassidy).

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  3. I read somewhere awhile back that in 1956 (I think), Jayne was on more magazine covers than anyone else. It might have even been some sort of record. But, nevertheless, she was apparently quite the sensation at the time she filmed this movie. I love the trailer for "Rock Hunter," where she is standing at the door of the airplane wearing a bathing suit, high heels, and a fur coat, and the lettering on the screen says, "It's Jayne Mansfield." I think that is classic, and it really sums up everything about the phenomenon that was her at the time.

    Have you ever heard this recording of "How to Be Very, Very Popular" by Teresa Brewer?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7t5IvROMwLY

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    1. Yes, I have that recording. Bless Teresa Brewer's little heart, but I loathe her voice!! Lol. Oddly, though, I love Joni James, who never met a note she didn't like to circle around before making a wobbly landing. Go figure!

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  4. The super blonde Sheree didn't last that long really. It didn't really suit her the way it did Jayne. With her build and that blinding platinum hair Jayne was a walking talking cartoon which was perfect for a small window of time in the 50's.

    The problem was when that image became passe Jayne wasn't perceptive enough to move away from it, up until her death she was the dithering, giggling too blonde sexpot who by that point was fraying around the edges.

    On the other hand Sheree was canny enough to contemporize her appearance with the changing times and segue into character work. Of course it helped that she was a gifted and subtle actress, to be honest a much more talented actress than Mansfield.

    Just look at their careers at the time of Jayne's passing-Jayne was appearing in dreck like Las Vegas Hillbillys and The Fat Spy and appearing in every less distinguished supper clubs whereas Sheree was amassing an enviable list of credits as the featured guest star on the top TV shows of the day and an occasional film that laid the foundation for a respectable career that lasted until ill health forced her to bow out in the 90's.

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    1. In Jayne's favor, she looked more like a movie star than Sheree. Jayne looks ravishing her big budget Fox films (Girl Can't Help It, Rock Hunter, It Happened in Athens). Of course, she pretty much fell apart after Fox dropped her contract and she had to rely on her own devices. But Sheree just never looked like a movie star to me, as much as I enjoy her -- she has an interesting face, rather than a beautiful or photogenic one, which is what she was so good and versatile in her character roles.

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    2. I would agree with that. Sheree was too distinctive and not distinctive enough too be a star, the perfect mix for character work if that makes sense. It kept her from the main spot but made her far more durable than many who achieved top line billing and when their vogue passed faded completely from sight. I also think she was more of a realist than most studio manufactured starlets. Seeing her in many interviews for different documentaries on the studio era and such she was refreshingly candid and down to earth allowing that it was a wonderful time but also that it had its down side and that equilibrium kept her from becoming deluded and able to guide her career constructively.

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