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Anyone who's ever written off Marilyn Monroe as "just" a dumb blonde are directed to this film immediately. Yes, at first glance, Lorelei Lee is a brainless piece of fluff, given to such malapropisms as "Pardon me, please, is this the boat to Europe, France?" But upon closer inspection, this girl is no dummy. Rather remarkably for the chauvinist times, Lorelei and Dorothy (played by the incredibly underrated Jane Russell) do things on their own terms, and when Lorelei "plays dumb," it's because she knows that's what men expect--and she uses it to her advantage. But enough of the heavy analysing; above all, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" is FUN! It's clearly of the Fox, rather than the MGM, school of musicals--MGM made the "art" musicals ("An American in Paris," "Singin' in the Rain"), while Fox made the "vulgar" ones ("There's No Business Like Show Business"). From the opening number ("Two Little Girls from Little Rock"), we know we're in for a visually opulent, noveau riche zircon of entertainment--witness the gaudy black, red and blue color scheme. Lorelei and Dorothy's costumes are at the extreme end of 50's fashion; designer Travilla will never go down as a contemporary of Dior or Balenciaga, but as a precursor to Bob Mackie. And yet, this is still a very funny (and essentially very warm) movie. There are few screen friendships as believable and as lovable as Lorelei and Dorothy's--maybe only Lucy and Ethel's on the small screen really surpasses it. "Let's get this straight," Dorothy warns, "nobody ever talks about Lorelei except ME." And Lorelei returns the compliment: "Dorothy is the best, loyalest friend a girl could ever have." Pretty heartwarming stuff! In a nutshell, Lorelei and Dorothy are nightclub entertainers who head for Paris when Lorelei's romance with millionaire Mr. Esmond (Tommy Noonan) flounders due to his father's interference. Shipboard, Dorothy is romanced by Malone (Elliot Reid), who, unbeknowst to the girls, is a private detective hired by Esmond to keep an eye out for potential scandal. Meanwhile, Lorelei meets Lord Beekman, aka "Piggy" (Charles Coburn), probably the dirtiest dirty old man in the history of film. Piggy just happens to own the 2nd largest diamond mine in South Africa, and soon enough, Lorelei is coveting the gorgeous diamond tiara owned by Piggy's wife, Lady Beekman (Norma Varden). Various mixups and mayhem ensues, with Lorelei and Dorothy eventually stranded in Paris. And that's where Marilyn Monroe gives her penultimate performance: the legendary "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" sequence. Even today, after scores of parodies and tributes, this number captivates. Not since Rita Hayworth's "Put the Blame on Mame" in "Gilda" was there such an intoxicatingly sexy marriage between star, song and persona. In this number, Marilyn is by turns playful, alluring, seductive and charming, but NEVER conniving or hard-edged. And therein lies her appeal: even when proclaiming "I prefer a man who lives and gives expensive jewels!", Marilyn is never anything less than adorable. She's not a gum-snapping, man-eating golddigger; she wants pretty things, and knows how to get them--but not at the expense of being nice. She may peruse passenger lists with single-minded focus ("Any man with '...and valet' after his name is definitely worthwhile"), but she's still a likable character WITH a motivation behind her actions--which always remain entirely innocent. Special note must be made here, too, of Jane Russell's contributions to this film (not the least of which is her seen-to-be-believed solo, "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love," in which she's surrounded by posterior-pumping beefcake). It would've been very easy for Russell to either throw the film entirely to Monroe, or push too hard for her own spotlight at the expense of onscreen warmth and camraederie. Wisely, Russell does neither. She simply turns in a snappy, effortless comic performance that more than holds its own, and projects a marvelous sense of sisterhood in her scenes with Monroe. This is a small comic, musical gem; the sum is greater than its parts (the songs themselves are weak; the comedy is sometimes obvious), but you cannot deny its sheer entertainment value. This is a perfect example of star power (Monroe's AND Russell's) turning a rhinestone into a diamond.
Marilyn's "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" was one of the classic musicals of
the 1950's... She comes into it looking like a winner, and leaves as
The picture has been set fully by the tone of her personality
personality infuses every corner of the film as if she has even picked
the scenery to work for her
The movie rises above its pretext, its story, its existence as a musical, even its music, and becomes at its best a magic work, yet it is a light-hearted satire of the old adage that when a woman goes bad, men go right after her
The film crowned Monroe in her position as the nation's new 'Love Goddess' with the promise of many sparkling hits to come, and Jane Russell's career continued, with less fanfare, but very successfully for several more years
The story was simple: Dorothy (Jane Russell) and Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) work together as entertainers and are also good friends Lorelei's millionaire fiancé Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan) sends the girls to France, but his father (Taylor Holmes) hires a private detective, Malone (Elliott Reid) on the same boat to spy on her during the trip When the three meet, Dorothy falls for Malone, much to the chagrin of Lorelei, who cannot understand Dorothy's indifference to men with money
On board, the girls get into trouble when they meet an old playboy Francis Beckman (Charles Coburn), a diamond merchant
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell are so terrific in their musical comedy
roles that they make the men (Elliot Reid and Tommy Noonan) look even more
pallid than they are. But let's fact it. Nobody's watching them anyway when
the spotlight is on Monroe and Russell as just "two little girls from Little
Fox knew what to do with the two lovelies when they cast them as the gold diggers aboard a ship bound for France with nothing on their minds but the pursuit of men with money. Jane has a wonderful song-and-dance routine with Olympic hopefuls in "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love?" and Marilyn gets to do a now-classic routine with "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend". Charles Coburn has some amusing moments as an old-timer with a yen for Marilyn who has a yen for his wife's tiara. "I just love finding new places to wear diamonds", she says in that sweetly innocent Monroe voice. And Russell tops everything off with an imitation of Monroe in a courtroom that's guaranteed to draw chuckles.
It's all done up in vivid technicolor. The girls wear eye-popping costumes and look ultra glamorous together (exact opposites), and the songs aren't bad either. Pure escapist entertainment of the '50s kind with enough humorous moments to keep you entertained by the silly shenanigans. Fans of Monroe and Russell will love this one.
One of the funniest moments: Monroe stuck in a ship's porthole while a little boy holds a blanket around her as she makes small talk with Charles Coburn.
A gold-digging, or rather diamond-digging, "dumb" blonde, played by
Marilyn Monroe, and her singing gal pal, played by the vivacious Jane
Russell, provide mutual support on a love boat cruise, where they flirt
with, and woo, eligible and preferably rich, men, in this musical
comedy from the early 50's. The story is thin and nonsensical. But
that's OK, because the film's strengths lie in its comedic script, its
dazzling musical numbers, and the inclusion of the visually stunning M.
Monroe, as Lorelei Lee.
Superficially, Lorelei "seems" like a not very bright "babe", especially in some of her comments. For example, she counsels Russell's character by saying: "I want you to find happiness --- and stop having fun". But there is a subtle quality about Lorelei that suggests that she may be smarter than she lets on. One wonders if Monroe, who was quite intelligent and bookish in real life, was really acting in this film, or just being herself.
While there are several lively, and memorable, musical numbers, they are all lead-ins to the lavish, eye-popping musical finale. On a stage adorned in garish colors (orange, pink, and black mostly), a breathtakingly glamorous Monroe belts out the popular song: "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend". Her singing (partially dubbed) is not quite as credible as the performance of Carol Channing in the Broadway version. Still, the film's finale is a cinematic spectacle, a veritable feast for the eyes and ears. "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" is not a heavy weight "message" film. It is instead a pleasant and entertaining bit of fluff, where the emphasis is on fun, music, and glamour.
While it will never compete with the likes of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN,
GIGI, or MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, this 1953 confection is nonetheless a
real charmer. Based on a popular Broadway show which was itself based
on the famous novel by Anita Loos, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES tells the
story of two cabaret performers--blonde bombshell Loreli Lee, who is
determined to marry for money, and brunette beauty Dorothy Shaw, who
prefers to marry for love. When Loreli's engagement to a millionaire's
son goes awry, the two set sail for Europe, and comic complications
ensue. The story is traditional fluff, pure and simple, and there is
nothing in the least innovative or unexpected about the film as a
whole--but it is all extremely, extremely well done.
The score is bright, including such tunes as the famous "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend"--and all the musical numbers are cleverly staged and filmed. The overall look of the film is also eye popping: the ladies are dressed to perfection and the color cinematography is truly joyous. The script is full of comfortable wit, director Hawks keeps it moving at a nice clip, and the cast includes such enjoyable performers as Charles Coburn, Tommy Noonan, Norma Varden, and George Winslow. But what really makes the film memorable are Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, who simply sparkle with star quality and play their with roles in a twinkle-in-the-eye style.
Monroe and Russell have remarkable chemistry on screen, and although neither were really singers they each had enjoyable and very distinctive singing voices; their performances are so pleasantly amusing that you can't help but smile. Both also had a way with comedy, with Monroe offering her quintessential 'not so dumb blonde' and Russell matching her all the way as the wise-to-you brunette determined to keep Monroe out of trouble. And so well do they work together it is hard to pick a favorite between the two. Call it fluff, froth, foolish--but even jeweler Harry Winston couldn't refuse this good time, even at the risk of a diamond or two. Thoroughly enjoyable for any one still capable of a smile.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
You don't need to be a Marilyn fan to enjoy this wonderful film.
A great light hearted comedy that pairs up Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe in their prime.
The performances are outstanding- Marilyn's precision comic timing along with Jane's dead-pan delivery make for an unforgettable comedy team.
At a time where men were leading the field for comedy pairings along comes Russell and Monroe and a better combination there is not!
The musical numbers are terrific especially Bye-Bye Baby and the classic Diamonds are Girls Best Friend.
The supporting roles are also well cast with the Charles Coburn as the Multimillionaire "Piggy" who has eyes only for Diamonds and Marilyn and the wonderful late Tommy Noonan as Marilyn's nerdish and gullible love interest Gus Edmond.
If you look beyond the surface which makes this film at first appear to be a seemingly stereotypical tale of young helpless women looking for rich husbands you will actually see a story of two strong and self-sufficient women looking for what they want in life, going out to get it and not settling for less!
But let's not make this any deeper than we need to... this is a FUN FILM... not meant to change the world but just to entertain you for a few hours-- AND THAT IT DOES!
High ranks from young and old... Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is great family entertainment.
Now, might I close with an Anita Loos quote about Marilyn Monroe in GPB:
"I did not write the role Lorelei Lee as Marilyn performed it in the film, but I sure as hell wish I had!"
As a demonstration of Hawks' versatility, this picture stands out. It's
anything but a faithful adaptation of the Anita Loos story, but in Hawks
skilled hands, it's as delightful and silly as his best screwball
and an evocative example of the sexpot exploitation prominent in it's day.
Monroe and Russell complement each other nicely as glamour babes beyond
belief. The flamboyant musical numbers are deliriously fetishistic and
there are some particularly hilarious bits involving a hoarse-voiced
boy and a dirty old man. Sensationally staged and provocatively
Anita Loos's famous novel and play Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was done as
a musical and ran for 740 performances during the 1949-1951 season. It
was the breakout role in the career on Broadway for Carol Channing. But
for the screen version a pair of pulchritudinous sex symbols were cast
as the showgirls looking for husbands, Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe.
Two things were done for the film, most of the Jule Styne-Leo Robin score was scrapped and two numbers written by Hoagy Carmichael and Harold Adamson were added. Retained from the original score was Bye Bye Baby, Two Little Girls from Little Rock and the famous theme of goldiggers everywhere, Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend.
The second thing was to update the story from when it was originally written during the Roaring Twenties to the current Fifties. Still the two basic characters of Russell and Monroe remained the same. Both would like husbands, but Russell wants to marry for love, money would be nice though, but Monroe it's strictly mercenary.
The two men they have an eye on are millionaire son Tommy Noonan for Monroe and Russell has her eye on Elliott Reid. Monroe's mercenary ways nearly sink the two of them, but it all kind of works out in the end.
Lorelei Lee was Marilyn's breakout role as well. No big male star names are opposite here, she's only in a friendly competition with fellow sex symbol Jane Russell. Russell's contribution to the film is too often overlooked with Marilyn's legend looming over all. She more than holds her own against Marilyn and in fact unlike in some of her films, there was no friction at all with the two women.
I can see why Howard Hawks was attracted to this film. The women he has in his films are tough minded and more than capable of dealing in a man's world. That Jane and Marilyn are in abundance and boy do those women have a lot of abundance.
And in all the right places too.
I think some people are too harsh on this movie. No, it doesn't saying anything revelatory about the human condition but that's not its intent. It is very good escapist fare. Monroe and Russell keep us enthralled with their glamor, song and dance numbers, and the occasional sharp one-liner. The plot is perfunctory. While Monroe is obviously the one most associated with the film in the public's consciousness, I personally think Russell is just as good if not better (I'm not saying that because I'm a brunet as well!) A question many Monroe fans ask is whether at this point onward in her career Monroe was playing Lorelei or whether in real life she 'was' Lorelei? Whatever the case, I recommend this movie if one is in the mood for glitzy glamorous Hollywood spectacle, 7/10.
Lorelei and Dorothy may well claim to just be two little girls from
Little Rock, but if that's the case then they certainly have no
intention to remain that way. Lorelei wants a rich man regardless of
looks or age while Dorothy wants good looks and a body to match. On
board a transatlantic cruise on their way to Paris, the pair find
plenty of both types of men but, despite temptation Lorelei genuinely
intends to remain faithful to the millionaire she has already hooked
Gus Esmond. Meanwhile Dorothy gets the attention of quite a nice
gentleman who seems like he really likes her.
Opening with a great bit of a sassy musical number this film goes into the credits with an atmosphere and approach that it pretty much keeps consistent throughout the whole film. The story is very much driven by the gold-digging female stereotypes of Lorelei and Dorothy and, although quite light, it does enough to keep things moving and interesting. It is greatly helped by the delivery, which is superficial, sparky and fun. The musical numbers (and indeed the whole film) are colourful and engaging thanks to the good direction from Hawks. The script provides plenty of amusing material and although it does lack depth and massive laughs, it is generally very entertaining.
The cast are a big part in it and I was surprised by how good the lead pair were. I've never really rated Russell or Monroe in terms of being good actresses but here they suit their character and work off one another well. Their characters are not anything other than exaggerated cliché but they are fun none the less; they have slightly different characters but each seems to be to their strengths and they deliver the script well. The male characters are very much a side issue but generally they are well played by Reid, Coburn, Noonan and a couple of others.
Generally then this is not the film to come to if you are looking for real substance and depth but it delivers the goods in regards fizz and fun. The musical numbers are colourful and entertaining, while the script is lively and benefits from good delivery from a well cast Monroe and Russell. A "classic" film that is fun over 50 years later and accordingly is well worth seeing.
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