Jayne Mansfield bares almost all (and becomes the first Hollywood actress to do so) in this sex comedy. This sexy shipboard romp about two women who are pregnant but don’t know which of the husbands is the father resulted in a headline-grabbing photo spread in Playboy Magazine. Comic Fritz Feld gives Tommy Noonan a pill to help him become a father…was this the original “blue pill?”
Now for the first time in 40 years you can view the photos taken from behind the scenes!
“This is the first time that I have ever appeared completely au naturel!” – says Jayne Mansfield in Playboy Magazine.
Promises! Promises! 5.75
eyelights: Marie McDonald. the nude bits.
eyesores: Jayne Mansfield. Mickey Hargitay. the bland humour. the cheap sets. the poor script.
‘Promises! Promises!’ is a low budget 1963 sex comedy starring Jayne Mansfield. It tells the story of Sandy and Jeff, a couple desperately trying to get pregnant while on a lengthy boat cruise, and of the hilarity that ensues when Jeff lets Sandy mistakenly believe that she did get pregnant – and later when he is convinced that his best friend, King, might be the baby’s father.
Um… because the fertility pills that they’ve been taking causes amnesia.
Actually, ‘Promises! Promises!’ is mostly notable for being the first picture showing a Hollywood star in the nude.
There’s really not much to recommend it: the writing isn’t sharp, the performances are telegraphed (and are frequently abysmally bad!), and the production is so cheap that the actors don’t fully open cabin doors so that we can’t see what isn’t on the other side. It’s like watching a crappy black and white sitcom, except for the fact that sitcoms of the day wouldn’t have been nearly as risqué.
One gets the impression that the filmmakers were aiming for a Doris Day/Rock Hudson-type comedy, but failed miserably due to the unskilled labour working in front and behind the scenes. There’s even a couple of split screens of our leads, in adjoining cabins, either preparing for dinner or having conversations. It could have been fun, à la ‘Pillow Talk‘, but the dialogues aren’t clever enough.
The direction is no better, quite frankly: There’s this hilarious scene where Sandy gazes out at the night sky and exclaims, “Look at the moon!” – cut to a shot of the sea, blanketed by a moonless sky. Ha. The film is so poorly-edited that the actors’ hair is sometimes noticeably different between takes and the stock footage of shipdeck activities doesn’t blend in because it’s so damned grainy.
Now, I’ve never seen Jayne Mansfield in action before, but she’s absolutely horrible here; she has no magnetism, can’t deliver a line worth a damn, and (last resort of the desperate!) I don’t even find her fetching. And in many scenes she’s paired up with Mickey Hargitay, as King, an actor who has all the on-screen splendour of Tommy Wiseau. It’s a really dreadful, painful combination.
The only person worth watching here is Marie MacDonald as Sandy’s best friend, Claire. She looked much older than her then-40 years, but she has a natural sexiness that Mansfield didn’t – and enough presence to outshine the others. Plus which her character is interesting because she has much more progressive view about women’s roles as childbearers than you’d expect in that day and age.
Speaking of progressive, in light of the fact that it was only the early ’60s, I was mildly surprised by the appearance of T. C. Jones as a clearly flaming hairdresser who’s friends with Sandy and Claire. I knew nothing of him beforehand, but Jones was apparently considered one of the best female impersonators around! Here he’s given a little routine with wigs at a baby shower for Sandy.
But what about these infamous nude scenes, which had Playboy magazine drooling? It’s rudimentary stuff, like Sandy being naked in bed, with a quick flash of boob. And then being fully topless when Jeff arrives at the cabin – which was clearly shot separately and edited together (Mansfield apparently had to turn to liquid courage to do these scenes!). And she also rolls post-coitally in bed.
There are other gratuitous scenes of her naked, most of which is exactly the same as what’s come before (with some new inserts to pepper the pot), later. And it actually can be sexy to some degree. Even though Mansfield has all the quality of a C-Grade Marilyn Monroe, and she’s not at all to my liking, the way the sequences were shot (not edited) did have their intended effect.
But it’s not enough to make ‘Promises! Promises!’ an enjoyable 75 minutes: beyond the crap production, writing and performances, there’s crap comedy and even a crap musical number by Mansfield (it’s absolutely dreadful stuff!). At best, it’s a curiosity and it’s certainly worth seeing if one likes watching a trainwreck unravel before one’s eyes. Or if one is easily titillated.
Otherwise, it delivers little on its promise.
Date of viewing: February 28, 2016