Promises! Promises! (presented as Promises... Promises! on screen) is a 1963 unrated sex comedy film produced by Tommy Noonan, released toward the end of the Hays code and before the MPAA film rating system became effective. It was the first Hollywood motion picture release of the sound era to feature a mainstream star—Jayne Mansfield—in the nude, though had the unfinished Something's Got to Give, which starred Marilyn Monroe, been released in 1962 as planned, it would have been entitled to claim that distinction.
Made on a modest budget, the film's publicity centered on Mansfield's nude scenes as the main attraction. She also sings two songs in the film – "I'm in Love" (also known as the "Lullaby of Love") and "Promise Her Anything". The production went through so much bickering between producer/actor Tommy Noonan and Mansfield that Noonan had to fly in Jet Fore, a publicist from 20th Century Fox, to keep peace on the set.
Mansfield's husband, Mickey Hargitay, also had a lead role in the film.
Tommy Noonan had offered the role of Claire to Mamie Van Doren, but she declined and was replaced with Marie McDonald. Ceil Chapman worked on McDonald’s wardrobe for the film. It turned out to be McDonald's final screen appearance.
The film was presented for the first time on television in its uncut form in 1984 on the Playboy Channel. The film was one of only several dozen sound films to have been released in full-length form on Super 8mm in the 1970s. The film was released on VHS and Beta videotape in the 1980s. On February 14, 2006, VCI Video released the film on DVD with extras such as original trailers and a gallery of stills from the Playboy issue along with never before released lobby cards.
Sandy Brooks (Mansfield) is desperate to get pregnant, but her husband Jeff (Tommy Noonan), a television script writer, is too stressed out to make love to her. In an attempt at a sea change, they go on a pleasure cruise and meet another couple, Claire and King Banner (Marie McDonald and Mickey Hargitay). Both couples set out on a drunken spree. They end up changing partners when retiring to their rooms. Later both women discover that they're pregnant, and set out to find whether the fathers are their own or the other's husband.
It was the first Hollywood motion picture release of the sound era to feature a mainstream star—Jayne Mansfield—in the nude. That distinction was to have gone to Marilyn Monroe, who shot a nude scene for director George Cukor's Something's Got to Give in 1962, but the film went unfinished after Monroe's death. The first movie featuring a mainstream star fully nude was A Daughter of the Gods (1916) featuring Annette Kellerman, but the Hays code had brought an end to nudity in mainstream American films.
Mansfield appears undressed in three scenes in Promises! Promises!. These three scenes are repeated a few times in the movie as dream sequences. The first and longest (59 seconds) in a part of the scene where she sings "I'm In Love" semi-nude in a foam filled bathtub, then bends over with her back to the camera. The second when she towels herself off (4 seconds), and the most repeated (4 times) third when she writhes around on a bed (6 seconds). Mansfield reportedly drank some champagne in order to give her the will to get undressed in front of the camera.
During the 1960s, 8 mm mail order companies sold the nude footage. After Mansfield's death, the documentary The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield (1968) included nude scenes from this film and pages from the Playboy pictorial, along with scenes from her other films including Too Hot to Handle (1960), The Loves of Hercules (1960) and L'Amore Primitivo (1964).
In a set of photographs published in a Playboy pictorial (titled The Nudest Jayne Mansfield), Mansfield stares at her breast, as does T. C. Jones (Babbette, a female impersonator hair stylist), then grasps it in her hand and lifts it high. The publicity and advanced blurbs on Playboy put Mansfield's name out as a major box office draw, though reviews of the film were next to disastrous. However, most of the offers that she received were largely of similar skin flicks. The film was heavily publicized in the July 1963 issue of Playboy, and led to an obscenity charge against Hugh Hefner, the publisher. Hefner was arrested by the Chicago police in June 1963, the only time in his life, and was acquitted by the jury. The jury voted 7–5 for acquittal. Copies of the issue reportedly sold for as much as $10 each.
Promises! Promises! was banned in Cleveland and several other cities, though later the Cleveland court decided the nude scenes in the film were not lewd after all. Both the original and an edited version enjoyed box office success in places where it was not banned, except for California. Mansfield was voted one of the Top 10 Box Office Attractions by theater owners that year. Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert wrote, "Finally in Promises! Promises! she does what no Hollywood star ever does except in desperation. She does a nudie. In 1963, that kind of box office appeal was all she had left." Despite Ebert's claim, seven years after Mansfield's groundbreaking move, major female Hollywood stars were doing nude scenes in Hollywood productions.