Promises! Promises! (1963)

“I’ve never seen a woman so determined to have a baby.”

Synopsis:
While on board a cruise ship, a woman (Jayne Mansfield) desperate to have a baby mistakenly believes that her secretly sterile husband (Tommy Noonan) has finally made her pregnant; after a drunken night of revelry with their married cabinmates (Mickey Hargitay and Marie McDonald), Noonan learns that his wife IS pregnant — but not by him!

Genres:

Review:
This infamous Jayne Mansfield vehicle holds a “special” place in cinematic history for its groundbreaking display of Mansfield’s “two best assets” in all their naked glory; unfortunately, the film itself — purportedly a light-hearted sex comedy — is a tedious, unfunny bore. As noted in Stuart Galbraith’s DVD Talk review (see link below), Promises! Promises! is “fascinating as film history and from a pop culture perspective but downright grueling as entertainment”. Surprisingly, Mansfield’s bosom is bared within the first few minutes of the film, leaving nothing for male admirers to wait anxiously for; director King Donovan (this was his only movie — thank goodness!) then flashes the same shots over and over again during “flashbacks”, but the effect is clearly strained.

For what it’s worth, the central premise of the film — Mansfield’s desperate desire to get pregnant, and the mix-up that ensues post-drunken hijinks — makes no sense either logically (Noonan’s character contracted the mumps while in the military, which would lead to sterility, NOT impotence — yet the entire film revolves around a doctor [Fritz Feld] trying to treat Noonan’s psychological insecurity) or scientifically (there is a certain cycle a woman’s body undergoes throughout the month, with only a small window of time available for conception — not that movies ever bother with this insignificant detail when it comes to on-screen pregnancies…). The only mildly amusing — and somewhat astonishing — aspect of the film is the inclusion of drag star T.C. Jones as an obviously gay male hairdresser aboard the cruise ship; he seems to be having fun with it all, particularly during a strange baby shower sequence when he dons a series of wigs and imitates, among others, Jayne Mansfield herself.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • T.C. Jones as “Babette”, the ship’s indubitably gay hairdresser
    Promises Babette

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look simply for its historical notoriety.

Links:

One Response to “Promises! Promises! (1963)”

  1. Not a must – though not as bad as its notorious reputation.

    ‘P!P!’ makes the best of a low budget; is nicely photographed in b&w by dependable Joseph Biroc; has director King Donovan doing his darnedest to keep everything bouncing along; has something of a frothy sitcom score; it even has a supporting cast (including, most refreshingly, a walk-on by Imogene Coca) giving something resembling its all.

    It also has rather tepid performances by Mansfield (trying hard to remember what she learned from Frank Tashlin, and managing one actual moment of acting) and Hargitay (actually, though microscopically, better than Mansfield).

    And it, unfortunately, has the overall feeling of a slowly deflating balloon.

    Co-writer (and co-star) Noonan attempts a kind of Noel Coward romp – minus wit. (As noted, T.C. Jones does banter a bit with what seems improvised – i.e., as Mansfield and McDonald enter his salon: “You’re just in time – you’re both a mess!” And he does a fairly good Tallulah Bankhead. Still, this is not endorsement.)

    ‘P!P!’ is, of course, most (in)famous for showing so much of Mansfield. What that basically amounts to is repetition of the same shot of JM standing in a doorway, the same shot of her lying in bed – and, oh, I almost forgot…we see her butt.

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