Saturday, August 01, 2009

cinema obscura: Tashlin Times Two

Leslie Parrish (right) toasts Tom Ewell and Sheree North in Frank Tashlin's elusive "The Lieutenant Wore Skirts," airing on the Fox Channel this month
The incomparable Frank Tashlin (1913-1972) began his professional life as a cartoonist/animator and when he branched out and started working with humans, he animated them, too. Hilariously so. And he brought a cartoonish quality to the one subject that connects most of his films.


It was the 1950s and the Playboy philosophy was just beginning its reign of terror - and Tashlin's wide-screen comedies exposed the era's accepted penchant for leering (the filmmaker essentially fetishized it) for what it was. Junevile and unattractive and funny as hell.

The Fox Movie Channel unearths two of Tashlin's forgotten treasures this month, starting with two screenings of 1956's "The Lieutenant Wore Skirts" scheduled for 14 August at 9:30a.m. and 30 August at 9:30 a.m. Tom Ewell plays his patented creepy middle-aged, middle-class wolf inexplicably married to a military babe - the wonderful Sheree North - and much of the film is about his relentless ploys to get her discharged. The film is as unstable as its noxious hero, wildly incorrect and guiltily pleasurable in spite of itself.

Tuesday and Terry, together at last, in Tashlin's antic "Bachelor Flat," also on Fox this month
Fox also dusts off Tashlin's 1962 farce, "Bachelor Flat," for two screenings this month - 17 August at 2 p.m. (preceded at noon by Tashlin's "The Girl Can't Help It") and 29 August at 6 a.m. Terry-Thomas is in prime form here as displaced Britisher, a professorial paleontologist who teaches in in alien Southern California and who is wildly attractive to women - an inadvertent ladies men whose life comes to consist of colliding females.

Tashlin's here also cast includes Celeste Holm (as T-T's fiancée), and Tuesday Weld and Richard Beymer who had starrred two years earlier for Blake Edwards in another breezy Fox comedy, "High Time" (1960), all in the above photo/left.

And speaking of Tashlin, too few of his breezy comedies from the the 1950s and early '60s have made it to home entertainment in any form. Sure, it's relatively easy to see his two Jayne Mansfield flicks, "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" and "The Girl Can't Help It," and "Artists and Models" (1955), with Martin and Lewis and Shirley MacLaine. But what about the many others? Aside from "The Lieutenant Wore Skirts" and "Bachelor Flat," also missing are "Susan Slept Here" (1954) with Dick Powell and Debbie Reynolds; "Say One for Me" (1959), again with Debbie Reynolds, this time with Bing Crosby and Robert Wagner, and "The Man from the Diner's Club" (1963) with Danny Kaye and Cara Williams.

Release them, I say!


Julian said...

Joe, On your recommendation I got a copy of "Norbit," which you compared favorably to Tashlin. I found dizzying and dazzling, just like something Tashlin would have produced in the '50s or '60s. One note on your review: I agree with you also that it is closer to a Jerry Lewis movie than either of Murphy's two "Nutty Professor" films. Thanks for the tip on the two Tashlins on Fox. I've seen neither and look forwar to them. His movies really deserve to be seen by more people.

vadim said...

“Hear Hear!”

Alex said...

Funny how you tied Tashlin to "Norbit" Are you deranged?

Jones said...

Turner showed "The Man from the Diner's Club" at least once in the past year.

Robert Chastaine said...

Hey, Joe, a shout-out for Frank Tashlin!

Dan Buskirk said...

I have a special place in my heart for IT'$ ONLY MONEY and ARTISTS & MODELS.

joe baltake said...

Dan- "Artists & Models" rocks.

Sylko said...

I saw "Susan Slept Here" a few months ago on Turner. It was interesting. The age gap between the two leads was pretty big (although he is only supposed to be 35, he looks 50), I liked it. Debbie Reynolds was adorable in it.