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Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957 film poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster by Tom Chantrell
Directed byFrank Tashlin
Produced byFrank Tashlin
Written byGeorge Axelrod
Frank Tashlin
Based onRita Marlowe
by George Axelrod
StarringJayne Mansfield
Tony Randall
Music byCyril J. Mockridge
CinematographyJoseph MacDonald
Edited byHugh S. Fowler
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
July 29, 1957 (1957-07-29)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,900,000[2]

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is a 1957 American satirical comedy film starring Jayne Mansfield and Tony Randall, with Betsy Drake, Joan Blondell, John Williams, Henry Jones, Lili Gentle, and Mickey Hargitay, and with a cameo by Groucho Marx.[3][4] The film is a satire on popular fan culture, Hollywood hype, and the advertising industry, which was making millions of dollars off the growing revenue from television ads. It also takes aim at television and the reduction it caused to the size of movie theater audiences in the 1950s. The film was also known as Oh! For a Man! in the United Kingdom.

The film was produced and directed by Frank Tashlin, who also wrote the largely original screenplay, using little more than the title and the character of Rita Marlowe from the successful Broadway play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? by George Axelrod.[5] The play had run from 1955 to 1956 and also starred Jayne Mansfield as Rita.


In lieu of a theme song and opening of the movie, Tashlin instead laid traditional opening credits over faux television commercials for products that failed to deliver what they promised.

From this comedic segue, the film opens on a writer for television advertising, Rockwell P. Hunter (Tony Randall), who is low on the ladder at the La Salle agency, the company where he works. With the agency set to lose its biggest account – Stay-Put Lipstick – he hatches an idea to get the perfect model and spokeswoman for Stay-Put's new line of lipstick, the famous actress with the "oh-so-kissable lips", Rita Marlowe (Jayne Mansfield).

For Rita to endorse the lipstick, however, Rock has to pretend to be her boyfriend to make her real boyfriend, Bobo Branigansky (Hargitay), the star of a TV Tarzan show, jealous. Bobo leaks the news of Rita's new romance to the tabloids and Rock Hunter is suddenly famous as Marlowe's "Lover Doll". Hunter's boss decides to leverage his employee's newfound fame, but when Hunter also gets Marlowe to agree on a television spectacular sponsored by Stay-Put, Hunter becomes the advertising firm's highest-regarded employee. Marlowe, meanwhile, is miserable; she thinks she is falling in love with Hunter, but her one real true love is the man who discovered her, George Schmidlap (Groucho Marx). Not being able to find Schmidlap, she pursues Hunter, though her Secretary "Vi" (Joan Blondell) warns her that she is playing a dangerous game. (Ironically, Blondell, who plays Mansfield's frumpy, middle-aged, all-business secretary, was herself a major movie sex symbol some 30 years before, and whose sexuality was one of the first victims of the Hays Code).

Hunter soon finds fame to be a double-edged sword, getting him what he wants, but with a price to be paid for that success. Women are crazy about him, and he has no peace of mind. Ultimately, he moves up the ladder at work, becoming company president, only to find it is not what he really wanted. Hunter confesses to his angry fiancée Jenny that he finds himself at the top of the heap without any meaning and she takes him back.

As Rita Marlowe opens her television spectacular for Stay-Put Lipstick, she is surprised by the appearance of the show's "surprise" guest star of (and the one true love of her life), George Schmidlap.

Freed from strain of advertising, Rock and Jenny retire to the country to tend a chicken farm, announcing that he has found the real living end.

Main cast

Actor Role
Jayne Mansfield[6] Rita Marlowe
Tony Randall[7] Rockwell P. Hunter
Betsy Drake[8][9] Jenny Wells
Joan Blondell Violet
John Williams Irving La Salle Jr.
Henry Jones Henry Rufus
Lili Gentle April Hunter
Mickey Hargitay Bobo Branigansky
Groucho Marx George Schmidlap
Ann McCrea Gladys
Barbara Eden Miss Carstairs


Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? received a nomination for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy (Tony Randall) and a nomination for the Writers Guild of America, East WGA Award (Screen) for Best Written American Comedy (Frank Tashlin). The character, Rita Marlowe, is based on dumb blond stereotype epitomized by roles performed by Marilyn Monroe at the time.

The film contains joking references to several of Mansfield's other roles, including The Girl Can't Help It (1956; also directed by Tashlin), Kiss Them for Me (1957), and The Wayward Bus (1957). The book Mansfield reads in the bathtub scene is Peyton Place (1956) by Grace Metalious, which became a feature film and a popular TV series that is claimed to be the forerunner of primetime soap operas. The buxom characters in the book were claimed to have been inspired by Mansfield.[10]

Former silent film star Minta Durfee has an uncredited role as a scrubwoman.[11]


Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is known as Mansfield's "signature film", and is in a package called "The Jayne Mansfield Collection" along with The Girl Can't Help It (1956) and The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958). In 1966 Frank Tashlin said it was the film of his with which he was "most satisfied... there was no compromise on that one. Buddy Adler let me do it my own way."[12] The book Jayne Mansfield reads in the bathtub scene is Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, which eventually became a feature film and a popular TV series that is claimed to be the forerunner of prime time soap operas. It has been claimed that the buxom characters in the book were inspired by Mansfield.[13]

There's a reference to this film of the 1964 spy novel Funeral in Berlin, starring Michael Caine as Harry Palmer. When the secret agent Palmer character, gets forged papers with a new identity, he gets unsatisfied with the name given to him and complains, "Rock Hunter! Why can't I be Rock Hunter?" In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[4][14]


Critical response

Film critic Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote in his review: "People who live in glass houses should not throw stones at their television sets, no matter how scornful and superior they may feel toward video. The rocks may miss the vexing targets and crash through their own fragile walls.This axiom is clearly demonstrated in the flimsy motion picture that has been made from the flimsy stage play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?".[15] Ethan de Seife wrote in his book, Tashlinesque: The Hollywood Comedies of Frank Tashlin, that we see with Son of Paleface, Marry Me Again, Artists and Models, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, The Man from the Diners' Club, The Private Navy of Sergeant O'Farrell, and many others that American animation and American live-action comedy derive from the same tradition.[16] Peter Lev wrote in his book, Twentieth Century-Fox: The Zanuck-Skouras Years, 1935–1965, "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is more fragmented than The Girl Can't Help It, and paradoxically it makes it a better film."[8]

Home Release

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? was released on VHS on July 2, 1996 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.[17]



  1. ^ Solomon 1988, p. 251.
  2. ^ Solomon 1988, p. 227.
  3. ^ Monaco 1992, p. 1065.
  4. ^ a b Eagan 2009, p. 533.
  5. ^ Doherty 2003, p. 788.
  6. ^ Faris 1994, p. 154.
  7. ^ Sands, Zach (2017). Film Comedy and the American Dream. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge. ISBN 978-1138096875.
  8. ^ a b Lev 2013, p. 202.
  9. ^ Matelski, Elizabeth M. (2017). Reducing Bodies: Mass Culture and the Female Figure in Postwar America (1st ed.). Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge. ISBN 978-1138681644.
  10. ^ Toth 1981, p. 144.
  11. ^ "Minta Durfee Filmography". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on October 19, 2015. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  12. ^ Paris Film at 3rd and Broadway Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 20 Sep 1966: C1.
  13. ^ Emily Toth; Inside Peyton Place: The Life of Grace Metalious; page 144; University Press of Mississippi; 200
  14. ^ Morgan, David (January 6, 2006). "'Goodfellas' On National Film Registry". ABC News. New York City: ABC. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  15. ^ Crowther, Bosley (September 12, 1957). "Screen: Farce From Fox; 'Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?' Here". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  16. ^ de Seife 2012, p. 55.
  17. ^ Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?. July 2, 1996. ISBN 6303957021. Retrieved April 15, 2020.


External links

This page was last edited on 5 November 2020, at 07:24
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