Betsy Drake

What’s on TCM: September 2014

Melvyn Douglas Greta Garbo Ninotchka

Happy September, everyone! Summer Under the Stars is always a tough act to follow, but TCM does an awesome job of doing so. There are two huge things that I am very excited for. The first of which is Melvyn Douglas as Star of the Month. I have always loved Melvyn Douglas and he never seems to quite get as much credit as he deserves. There’s also a ton of his movies I’ve never seen, so I’m really happy to have the chance to see more of his work.

The second thing I am so, so excited to see is that every Friday this month will be a 24-hour marathon of pre-code movies! That’s right, 24 glorious hours of wild, fast-paced, innuendo-laden movies! Friday Night Spotlight isn’t just for prime time this month! With my annual 30 Days of Pre-Codes event, it’s no secret that I adore the pre-code era. If you have yet to explore much of this wild and fascinating era of film making, this is a golden opportunity because you’ll have the chance to see so many of the pre-code essentials (Baby Face, Three on a Match, Red Headed Woman, Design for Living, just to name a few) as well as many other great ones. Don’t miss The Story of Temple Drake on September 12 at 2:30 AM or Call Her Savage September 26 at 2:15 AM. They’re on late at night so it might be easy to overlook those, but they’re a couple of my favorite pre-codes and I don’t see them on TCM very often. If you only know Clara Bow as a silent film star, you’re going to be in for a real treat with Call Her Savage. 

Now, onto the rest of the schedule…

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Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)

When advertising writer Rockwell P. Hunter (Tony Randall) finds his job on the line, he has one last chance to win over his agency’s biggest client, Stay-Put Lipstick.  When he sees actress Rita Marlowe (Jayne Mansfield) on television, he has a stroke of genius.  Rita is known for her “oh-so-kissable lips,” so having her endorse Stay-Put Lipstick would surely be a huge success.  The folks at Stay-Put Lipstick agree, so Rock sets out to get Rita to agree to endorse Stay-Put.

Luckily for Rock, Rita just happens to be in town trying to forget about her boyfriend Bobo (Mickey Hargitay).  She agrees to endorse Stay-Put, but only if Rock pretends to be her new boyfriend to make Bobo jealous.  Rock goes along with it, but nothing could prepare him for what happens next.  Bobo does, indeed, get jealous.  So jealous that he talks to the press about how Rita’s been running around with an ad exec named Rock Hunter, or as she calls him, “Lover Doll.”  Before he knows it, he’s all over the newspapers and Rita’s fans are clamoring to get a piece of him.  Rita gets a lot of great publicity out of it, but it isn’t all bad for Rock, either.  Not only does the whole world think he’s the greatest lover to ever walk the earth, he finally starts getting the recognition at work he’s wanted so badly.  But once he finds success, he isn’t sure if he really wants it.

One person not happy with this situation is Rock’s fiancée Jenny (Betsy Drake), who doesn’t believe Rock’s repeated assurances that he loves her, not Rita.  Desperate to not lose him, she begins trying to make herself more like Rita.  Meanwhile, Rita begins to actually fall for Rock and wants him to really be her boyfriend.  But her secretary Violet (Joan Blondell) knows her better than she knows herself and can see that she’s really just looking for a man to replace her one true love, George Schmidlap.

I can sum up Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? in two words: absolutely hilarious.  What Bombshell is to Jean Harlow, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is to Jayne Mansfield.  It bears very little resemblance to the stage play, but it does stand well on its own.  The first time I saw it, I wasn’t even planning to watch it at the time, but I happened to catch the first few minutes and it looked like so much fun that I didn’t want to turn it off.  Everyone’s performances were very entertaining, but Tony Randall was particularly hilarious.  Even though it’s a satire on television and advertising in the 1950s, a lot of the jokes have held up surprisingly well over time.  It’s just great fun.  And wait until you see who plays George Schmidlap!