Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happy 100th Birthday, Frank Tashlin!

Born on February 19, 1913, film comedy producer-director-writer-animator and the author of The Bear That Wasn't, the most satiric children's book ever penned, Mr. Frank Tashlin.

Tashlin could well be the single greatest cartoon director who ever lived, or at the very least, neck-in-neck with Tex Avery, Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett.

Like the other Termite Terrace boys, Tashlin was responsible for enduring comic gems at Warner Brothers.

Tashlin carried that subversive sense of humor from animation to live-action, first as screenwriter (The Road To Utopia, The Paleface), then as director. Paramount comedy stars Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in particular benefited immensely.

As the 1950's progressed, Tashlin smuggled even more of that unique satiric edge into the mix while directing and writing starring vehicles for Martin & Lewis, Jayne Mansfield, Tony Randall, Terry-Thomas and Jerry Lewis.

The following commentary on Tashlin's delirious 1956 musical The Girl Can't Help It, by a subversive filmmaker of a later generation, John Waters, says it all.

Thanks, Frank - like Little Richard and Sweet Gene Vincent, you rocked!

Author/historian Mike Barrier rocked as well with his 1971 interview with Mr. Tashlin.


Gregor Nelson said...

Thank you for this, Paul! Tash was a hero of mine from childhood, as I was raised on The Bear That Wasn't (published 1946) and later on, The World That Isn't (1951). But it was his second "children's" book, The Possum That Didn't (1950) that was my all-time favorite. My aunt went to purchase a copy in 1954 from a bookshop in Los Angeles. The clerk furtively produced a copy from under the counter, and in hushed tones said that while they carried it, it was not openly displayed or on the shelf, as it had been decried by some as a subversive indictment of American society (as indeed it is!). The McCarthy Hearings were in full swing right then, after all. My aunt made her purchase and left the shop, certain that G-Men were now on her tail. I still have my three well-loved books.

Paul F. Etcheverry said...

Well said, Gregor! When conformity and mindless obedience to authority become the order of the day, satirists are Public Enemy #1.

Don J. Long said...

THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT! 20th Century Fox, 1956 - In CinemaScope and Color by DeLuxe:
The movie poster shows the film's obvious influence: THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH (Fox, 1955) in which Tom Ewell was drooling over the magnificent Marilyn Monroe. For this SEVEN-YEAR ITCH Part 2, the filmmakers wisely hired comedy writer-director Frank Tashlin to satirize everything in show business, including the new musical phenomenon of Rock'n'Roll, showcased in this wide-screen CinemaScope 1956 Fox vehicle for its newest big-bazoomed blonde bombshell star Jayne Mansfield, in a rollicking, fun-filled, live-action cartoon. TASH at his best!