Nationality: American. Born: Weehawken, New Jersey, 19 February 1913. Education: Educated in public school, Astoria, Long Island. Family: Married Mary Costa. Career: Errand boy for Max Fleischer, 1928; worked on Aesop's Fables cartoons at RKO, from 1930, became animator; sold cartoons to magazines under pseudonym "Tish-Tash," until 1936; moved to Hollywood, worked at Vitaphone Corp. on Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes, 1933; comic strip Van Boring syndicated, 1934–36; gagman at Hal Roach Studios, 1935, then director and scriptwriter for Looney Tunes; story director at Disney studios for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck series, 1939–40; executive producer, Columbia's Screen Gems Cartoon Studios, 1941; returned to Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes, 1942, also directed first Private Snafu cartoon for Frank Capra's Army Signal Corps Unit; first non-animated film credit as co-scriptwriter for Delightfully Dangerous, 1944; gag writer at Paramount, 1945; writer for Eddie Bracken's CBS radio shows, 1946; took over direction of The Lemon Drop Kid at request of Bob Hope, 1950; writer, producer and director for television, from 1952. Died: In Hollywood, 5 May 1972.
Films as Director:
The Lemon Drop Kid (co-d, uncredited, + co-sc)
The First Time (+ co-sc); Son of Paleface (+ co-sc)
Marry Me Again (+ sc); Susan Slept Here (+ co-sc uncredited)
Artists and Models (+ co-sc); The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (+ co-sc)
Hollywood or Bust (+ co-sc uncredited); The Girl Can't HelpIt (+ pr, co-sc)
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (+ sc, pr)
Rock-a-Bye Baby (+ sc); The Geisha Boy (+ sc)
Say One for Me (+ co-sc uncredited, pr)
Cinderfella (+ sc)
Bachelor Flat (+ co-sc)
It's Only Money (+ co-sc); The Man from The Diner's Club; Who's Minding the Store? (+ co-sc)
The Disorderly Orderly (+ sc)
The Alphabet Murders
The Glass-Bottom Boat; Caprice (+ co-sc)
The Private Navy of Sergeant O'Farrell (+ sc)
Delightfully Dangerous (Lubin) (sc)
Variety Girl (Marshall) (co-sc); The Paleface (McLeod) (co-sc); The Fuller Brush Man (That Mad Mr. Jones) (Simon) (co-sc)
One Touch of Venus (Seiter) (co-sc); Love Happy (Miller) (co-sc)
Miss Grant Takes Richmond (Innocence Is Bliss) (Bacon) (co-sc); Kill the Umpire (Bacon) (sc); The Good HumorMan (Bacon) (sc)
The Fuller Brush Girl (The Affairs of Sally) (Bacon) (sc)
The Scarlet Hour (Curtiz) (co-sc)
By TASHLIN: articles—
"Frank Tashlin—An Interview and an Appreciation," with Peter Bogdanovich, in Film Culture (New York), no. 26, 1962.
On TASHLIN: book—
Johnston, Claire, and Paul Willemen, editors, Frank Tashlin, London, 1973.
Schneider, Steve, That's All Folks!: The Art of Warner Bros. Animation, New York, 1988.
On TASHLIN: articles—
Benayoun, Robert, and others, articles, in Positif (Paris), no. 29.
Boussinot, Roger, "Frank Tashlin," in Cinéma (Paris), no. 49, 1960.
Cameron, Ian, "Frank Tashlin and the New World," in Movie (London), February 1963.
Bogdanovich, Peter, "Tashlin's Cartoons," in Movie (London), Winter 1968/69.
Bogdanovich, Peter, "Frank Tashlin," in The New York Times, 28 May 1972.
Beylie, Claude, "La Fin d'un amuseur," in Ecran (Paris), July/August 1972.
Grisolia, M., "Frank Tashlin ou la poétique de l'objet," in Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1972.
Cohen, M.S., "Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies," in Velvet LightTrap (Madison), Autumn 1975.
Arnold, Frank, "Neu gesehen: Tahlin in Locarno," in EPD Film (Frankfurt), vol. 11, no. 10, October 1994.
Bulgakowa, O., "Glückskind oder verkanntes Genie? Frank Tashlin . . . zig Jahre danach," in Film-Dienst (Cologne), vol. 47, no. 20, 27 September 1994.
Bogaert, Pieter van, "Populaire gevoeligheden: Tashlin Codelli, Lorenzo Ziefeld Tashlin (terug) zien!" in Andere Sinema (Antwerp), no. 125, January-February 1995.
* * *
Frank Tashlin had achieved recognition as a children's writer when he entered the film industry to work in the animation units at Disney and Warner Bros. Both of these early careers would have decisive import for the major films that Tashlin would direct in the 1950s. This early experience allowed Tashlin to see everyday life as a visually surreal experience, as a kind of cartoon itself, and gave him a faith in the potential for natural experience to resist the increased mechanization of everyday life. Tashlin's films of the 1950s are great displays of cinematic technique, particularly as it developed in a TV-fearing Hollywood. They featured a wide-screen sensibility, radiant color, frenetic editing, and a deliberate recognition of film as film. Tashlin's films often resemble live versions of the Warners cartoons. Jerry Lewis, who acted in many of Tashlin's films, seemed perfect for such a visual universe with his reversions to a primal animality, his deformations of physicality, and his sheer irrationality.
Tashlin's films are also concerned with the ways the modern world is becoming more and more artificial; the films are often filled with icons of the new mass culture (rock and roll, comic books, television, muscle men, Jayne Mansfield, Hollywood) and are quite explicit about the ways such icons are mechanically produced within a consumer society. For example, in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, the successful romance of Rita Marlow (Jayne Mansfield) causes other women to engage in dangerous bust-expanding exercises to the point of nervous exhaustion. Yet the very critique of mass culture by an artist working in a commercial industry creates the central contradiction of Tashlin's cinema: if the danger of modern life is its increasing threat of mechanization, then what is the critical potential of an art based on mechanization? Significantly, Tashlin's films can be viewed as a critique of the ostentatious vulgarity of the new plastic age while they simultaneously seem to revel in creating ever better and more spectacular displays of sheer technique to call attention to that age. The Girl Can't Help It, for instance, chronicles the making of a non-talent (Jayne Mansfield) into a star, viewing the process with a certain cynicism but at the same time participating in that process. These films are vehicles for Mansfield as Mansfield, and are thus somewhat biographical.
As with Jerry Lewis, serious treatment of Tashlin began in France (especially in the pages of Positif, which has always had an attraction to the comic film as an investigator of the Absurd). Anglo-American criticism tended to dismiss Tashlin (for example, Sarris in American Cinema called him "vulgar"). In such a context, Claire Johnston and Paul Willemen's Frank Tashlin had the force of a breakthrough, providing translations from French journals and analyses of the cinematic and ideological implications of Tashlin's work.
—Dana B. Polan