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The Hollywood Comedies of Frank Tashlin

Ethan de Seife

Publication Year: 2012

Frank Tashlin (1913-1972) was a supremely gifted satirist and visual stylist who made an indelible mark on 1950s Hollywood and American popular culture--first as a talented animator working on Looney Tunes cartoons, then as muse to film stars Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, and Jayne Mansfield. Yet his name is not especially well known today. Long regarded as an anomaly or curiosity, Tashlin is finally given his due in this career-spanning survey. Tashlinesque considers the director's films in the contexts of Hollywood censorship, animation history, and the development of the genre of comedy in American film, with particular emphasis on the sex, satire, and visual flair that comprised Tashlin's distinctive artistic and comedic style. Through close readings and pointed analyses of Tashlin's large and fascinating body of work, Ethan de Seife offers fresh insights into such classic films as Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, The Girl Can't Help It, Artists and Models, The Disorderly Orderly, and Son of Paleface, as well as numerous Warner Bros. cartoons starring Porky Pig, among others. This is an important rediscovery of a highly unusual and truly hilarious American artist. Includes a complete filmography.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Series: Wesleyan Film


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface: Tashlin Resurgent

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pp. ix-xiv

Director Frank Tashlin has left an indelible impression on American and global film comedy. His films are some of the funniest, most visually inventive comedies ever made, and they feature landmark performances by some of the greatest comedians in American film history, a list that ...

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pp. xv-xviii

Without the constant support, encouragement, and advice of Lea Jacobs, this book would never have been written. Her suggestions were always excellent ones, and the finished product is far better as a result of her contributions. I also wish to thank David Bordwell, Vance Kepley, ...

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INTRODUCTION: The Director Who Wasn’t

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pp. 1-15

Francis Fredrick von Taschlein was born on February 19, 1913, in Weehawken, New Jersey, a town whose irresistibly comical name the director employs as the putative birthplace of Patricia Crowley’s character in ...

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CHAPTER ONE: Tish-Tash in Cartoonland

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pp. 16-51

One fruitful way of understanding Frank Tashlin’s career is to look at his peregrinations from studio to studio. While most pronounced in his live- action career, this peripatetic tendency announced itself when he was a

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CHAPTER TWO: Tashlin, Comedy, and the “Live-Action Cartoon”

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pp. 52-68

A persistent argument about Frank Tashlin is that his cartoons anticipate his live- action features, and that his live- action features resemble cartoons. I wish to propose an alternative to this long- standing argument, which I believe ...

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CHAPTER THREE: "Hurry up! This is impossible!”: Tashlin’s Early Feature Films

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pp. 69-93

Frank Tashlin’s transition to live- action filmmaking was eased by his five years as a screenwriter. His screenwriting experience, coupled with the directorial skills he had honed as an animator, helped to ease this transition. Nonetheless, I have not conducted any detailed analyses of the films that Tashlin ...

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CHAPTER FOUR: The Artist and His Model: Tashlin and Jerry Lewis in the 1950s

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pp. 94-118

It would probably be going too far to say that, in Jerry Lewis, Tashlin discovered his muse. However, over the course of their eight films together, the two men clearly found in each other what we might call compelling congruencies. When Lewis became a director ...

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CHAPTER FIVE: The Director and the Bombshell: Tashlin and Jayne Mansfield

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pp. 119-144

Critics, scholars, and Tashlin himself generally agree that The Girl Can’t Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? are the director’s two best films.1 It is a claim that this volume will not refute. ...

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CHAPTER SIX: Disorderly Conduct: Tashlin in the 1960s

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pp. 145-173

Tashlin’s films are strongly identified with the 1950s. Authors such as Ed Sikov, Dirk Lauwaert, and Robert Sklar see Tashlin as the embodiment of certain of that decade’s sensibilities. 1 Curvaceous women, bold colors, rock music, a sexuality ...

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CHAPTER SEVEN: The Man in the Middle: Tashlin, Auteurs, and Programmers

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pp. 174-186

Frank Tashlin’s cinematic style has never really been taken on its own terms, nor considered within the contexts of genre and authorship in mid- twentieth- century Hollywood. To that end, this chapter investigates the mechanics of Tashlin’s ...

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CHAPTER EIGHT: Who’s Minding the Store?: Tashlin’s Influence

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pp. 187-210

This book begins on a note of surprise—could we truly be in the middle of a Tashlin renaissance? Such a notion is as implausible as . . . a Tashlin gag.
Perhaps I spoke too soon: Tashlin’s work remains underrepresented on DVD and in recent scholarly literature; despite ...

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Appendix: Frank Tashlin’s Creative Work

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pp. 211-218

Unless otherwise noted, Tashlin is the director (or, in the case of some of the animated films, “supervisor,” which means essentially the same thing) of all of the films listed below. The films’ release dates are in parentheses. ...


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pp. 219-242


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pp. 243-254

E-ISBN-13: 9780819572417
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819572400

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Wesleyan Film

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Subject Headings

  • Tashlin, Frank -- Criticism and influence.
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