“Soon as they step out of the elevator they can hear Elvis-movie music. ‘Uh-oh,’ Tallis looking for her keys. Before she can find them, the door is flung open and a less-than-towering presence starts in with the emotions. Behind him on a screen Shelley Fabares is dancing around holding a sign announcing I’M EVIL.” (p. 464)
The reference that this particular moment in the book is making is a reference to Boris Sagal’s Girl Happy. Unlike many of Pynchon’s intertextual references this is an actual film that was produced in 1965, starring Elvis Presley and Shelley Fabares. This particular reference is brought about at the very end of the novel when Chazz Larday is in Tallis’s apartment when she returns with Maxine after having been out hiding from Gabriel Ice all night.
This portion of the text is referencing Girl Happy which is an American musical comedy in which a mobster father, Big Frank (Harold J. Stone), hires a singer, Rusty Wells (Elvis Presley), to shadow his daughter, Valerie (Shelley Fabares)l, as she sets off on her spring break to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. During this time Valerie becomes close with Rusty, however she soon realizes that Rusty had been paid by her father to keep her out of trouble. Upon learning this, Valerie rebels and goes off with an Italian womanizer, Romano (Fabrizio Mioni). During Valerie’s rebellious period she lands herself in jail, and Rusty must ensue Big Frank’s wrath (Wikipedia “Girl Happy”), (IMDB “Girl Happy”). This reference is particularly significant, because this story line closely resembles that of the story line that is set up in Bleeding Edge as Gabriel Ice hired Chazz Larday to become close with Tallis and keep a watchful eye after her. These facts are given to the readers explicitly in the novel when Maxine and Tallis are discussing Chazz’s involvement in Tallis’s life. In fact, Tallis says: “my ex-husband-to-be wasn’t paying your employer that much just to keep little me busy” (Pynchon 464). Thus this indicates that Tallis had become fully aware that Chazz had been paid off by her husband to keep her “under control.” Besides the fact that this story differs in that it was Tallis’s husband, not father, who was paying off Chazz to keep her out of trouble, it also differs in the fact that Tallis didn’t run off with another man, she essentially ran out of Ice’s reigns and towards her own life.
The reference made at this point in the book is slightly unique in that besides Pynchon referencing Shelley Fabares and Elvis Presley, he doesn’t explicitly say that this scene comes from the movie Girl Happy (Pynchon 464). However as I was looking through the novel I came across this scene and reference and became intrigued because the picture on the television was an explicit reference as to who Chazz Larday is and what he represents/stands for (Gabriel Ice). In this scene of the movie, Shelley Fabares dances around holding a sign that announces “I’M EVIL” (Pynchon 464). In looking into this, I found that it came from the actual film, Girl Happy and became intrigued (“Chapter 41”). Because this was a real reference, I was able to find a lot of information on the movie, actors, and plot. Some of the further avenues of research that I would have liked to do, but was unable was that of actually watching the film, because I could not find it as well as finding the particular scene in which this event occurs. However, the research I was able to do on the film as a whole, gave me, what I believe to be, enough information to gain a fair understanding as to why this reference is important to Bleeding Edge and particularly this scene.
After looking into this reference and gaining some background on it, the greatest thing that I feel was brought out is that this particular reference is a true reference as many of Pynchon’s intertextual references are not or have been slightly altered. I feel it is necessary to point this out, because it calls attention to the fact that this is an authentic moment, in that in brings forward a great bit of truth. Had this reference been made to a fictions film or a partially fictitious film that Pynchon created to fit his world, it would have still held meaning, because of this explicit reference to Chazz being evil, or rather a “shady character.” However, the fact that this film is real and it’s plot closely resembles that of the plot between Gabriel Ice, Tallis, and Chazz Larday, holds even greater weight suggesting that this is a moment in the book that should stand out to the reader as being true or holding greater significance than other moments.
I believe that Pynchon chose to make this moment reference a real film to highlight the authenticity or rather the significance of the fact that Gabriel Ice has hired Chazz Larday to keep Tallis out of trouble. This moment is significant, because it adds to the notion of Gabriel Ice being a manipulative and controlling character, who wants to watch over everything, especially that which he believes himself to own—Tallis.
While this text, Girl Happy, is referenced and not explicitly written it does require the reader to look into whether this moment in the novel is real or not, it allows for a deeper reading for those who do so. I believe that Pynchon chose to merely reference this film rather than explicitly talk about or explain its plot, was to add to the layers that this novel holds, along with the fact that while this text, Girl Happy, resembles the story of Ice, Tallis, and Chazz, Pynchon wants to call most of the attention to the scene that is playing behind Chazz on the television in this scene.
This particular moment in the novel not only highlights the action and character of the scene, but also the deeper connections between Ice, Tallis, and Chazz. Pynchon makes sure to reference a historically real text to highlight the gravity of the moment along with the depths at which Ice will control people, showing him to be this deeper “real” character.
“Bleeding Edge.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 1 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleeding_Edge.
“Chapter 41.” Thomas Pynchon Wiki. HyperArts, 30 Apr. 2014. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. http://bleedingedge.pynchonwiki.com/wiki/index.php?title=Chapter_41.
“Girl Happy.” IMDb. IMDb.com, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059224/.
“Girl Happy.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl_Happy.
Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2013. Print.