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The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown

The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown(1957)

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teaser The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957)

Jane Russell had started her career in 1941 when Howard Hughes put her under personal contract and made her a star in The Outlaw, released in 1943. She remained under contract to Hughes through the 1940s and 1950s but that contract allowed her to produce films under her own production company, Russ-Field Productions, which she formed with her first husband, Robert Waterfield. The company, which released films through United Artists, had two successes with The King and Four Queens (1956) starring Clark Gable and Run for the Sun (1956) starring Richard Widmark and Trevor Howard. Russell and Waterfield bought the film rights to Sylvia Tate's novel The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown as a vehicle for Jane. It told the story of a Hollywood actress who is kidnapped but thinks it's all a publicity stunt. Real-life actress Marie "The Body" McDonald had made headlines when she faked her own kidnapping in the California desert in early 1957. And coincidence or not, a copy of Sylvia Tate's novel was found in McDonald's home.

The 1950s was the decade of the blonde bombshell as typified by McDonald, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. So, in 1957 brunette bombshell Russell donned a blonde wig for the film version of The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown. She also hired director Norman Taurog, who had won an Oscar® in 1931 for Skippy (starring his nephew, Jackie Cooper), and would spend the 1960s directing Elvis Presley films. Richard Alan Simmons, (who would later produce several Columbo television films) adapted the novel into a screenplay. For co-stars, Russ-Field got Keenan Wynn, Fred Clark, Adolphe Menjou and Una Merkel. Director Taurog had wanted Dean Martin to play the kidnapper, Mike Valla, but the part eventually went to Ralph Meeker. Singer Dick Haynes played a DJ and Bob Kelley played a television announcer. Kelley had been the announcer for the Los Angeles Rams since 1937 and Robert Waterfield had once played for the team and later became a coach.

The critics were not impressed with The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown; The New York Times wrote that "An ordinary piece of feminine night clothing is a pretty flimsy excuse for putting together a long, long movie. This happens to be the case even though the girl in the bedtime get-up is Jane Russell. Miss Russell, cast as a movie star who is abducted by a couple of good guys gone sour on the law, can keep the nightgown hanging properly. But she cannot disentangle herself from a smothering yarn that finds her in no time an accessory to her own kidnapping. This baseless turnabout occurs for no better reason than the fact that Ralph Meeker, as one of the abductors, would really rather play house than gangster, and because Miss Russell, underneath the key garment, has a loving and lonely heart. Also muffled in this matted yarn is the amusing Keenan Wynn, who bluffs his way to a few laughs as Mr. Meeker's assistant. As pointed out, it is no quick unraveling to the happy ending. There is a lot of talk about the emptiness of movie stardom and about the reason a swell pipe-smoking guy like Mr. Meeker pulled such a trick. Most of the talking, which in the script by Richard Alan Simmons is without point or humor, is done by Miss Russell. After all, pretty girls in fuzzy nightgowns should be seen and not heard. That goes for her kidnappers, too."

Part of the problem, Russell later wrote, was that The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown was in black-and-white, rather than Technicolor. Russell had conceived the film as a suspenseful drama whereas Taurog thought it should be a Technicolor comedy. She later said, "It was just as much my fault as the director's. It would have been much better if either one of us had been the boss." The film also suffered from tough competition - Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) with Jayne Mansfield had been released three months earlier in July. As a result, The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown was the second money-loser for Russ-Field Productions (the first had been Gentlemen Marry Brunettes in 1955), and the failure of the film ended the company. The film would finally see a profit in the 1960s after several runs on television.

Producer: Robert Waterfield
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenplay: Richard Alan Simmons, Sylvia Tate (novel)
Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle
Film Editing: Archie Marshek
Art Direction: Serge Krizman
Music: Billy May
Cast: Jane Russell (Laurel Stevens), Keenan Wynn (Dandy), Ralph Meeker (Mike Valla), Fred Clark (Sergeant McBride), Una Merkel (Bertha), Adolphe Menjou (Arthur Martin).
BW-88m.

by Lorraine LoBianco

Sources:
The Internet Movie Database
The New York Times: The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown on View , October 31, 1957
Wikipedia.org
Meekermuseum.com
Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Dames by Ray Hagen and Laura Wagner
Radiotimes.com

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