In 1957 it had been 5 years since Groucho had been on movie screens in a new picture. Though his movie career had atrophied, however, he had conquered the medium of television. Via his game show You Bet Your Life he was an American institution. So much so that he rated this high profile cameo in one of the biggest hits of the year, Frank Tashlin’s Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
In the film, the gorgeous Jayne Mansfield is juggling many men: “Lover Doll” Tony Randall, and jungle man Bobo Branigansky (played by her real life weightlifter husband Mickey Hargitay)…but in the end it turns out the one she really wants is her hometown boyfriend (at least 30 years her senior) one George Schmidlap (Groucho). We get a double laugh because she can have any movie star in the world she wants but the man she has chosen is A) Groucho and B) an unglamorous, older man with the unsexy name of “George Schmidlap”. 57 years after it opened, we hope you won’t consider this a spoiler!
Anyway, it’s kind of an interesting flip. Seven years previously, Marilyn Monroe had had a small part opposite Groucho in Love Happy. In Rock Hunter it as though the blondes were paying him back.
For more on comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etcTo find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
I have to check this movie out. I haven’t had a chance. You know, hindsight it 20/20. We all know now that Groucho could be kind of a difficult person to be in love with. But there is something attractive about him. Even in his later years. Of course, once you lived with him, it might be a different story. 🙂