Lauren Bacall's character, Schatze, says, "I've always liked older men... Look at that old fellow what's-his-name in The African Queen (1951). Absolutely crazy about him." She is referring to Bacall's then real-life husband, Humphrey Bogart.
Hollywood legend has it that Marilyn Monroe, who had already rocked to major stardom in Gentleman Prefer Blondes(1953), was befriended during filming by Betty Grable, who offered Marilyn this encouragement: "Honey, I've had mine. Go get yours."
When Pola (Marilyn Monroe) is modeling the red swimsuit, the description given of the outfit is: "You know, of course, that diamonds are a girl's best friend." Marilyn Monroe sings the number 'Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend' in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), which was released the same year as this film.
This film was the final box-office bonanza in Betty Grable's 26-year movie career. According to a 1995 biography of Miss Grable, "The Girl With the Million Dollar Legs," written by Tom McGee, business would be fairly strong for Betty's next picture, Three for the Show (1955), but her last feature, How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955), was tagged, in Betty's own words, "a turkey."
Writer and humorist Dorothy Parker's famous quip that "men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses" was purposely bobbled by screenwriter (and producer) Nunnally Johnson for Marilyn Monroe's character Pola to assert to David Wayne (as Freddie) that "you know, men are seldom attentive to girls who wear glasses."
Before becoming a major Hollywood success, Lauren Bacall worked as a model for several years of her teenage life while auditioning for roles on Broadway. The modeling she did is exactly like that of her character Ms. Paige, showing pieces for clients.
This was the first film telecast on "NBC Saturday Night at the Movies", 23 September 1961, the first television program to exclusively broadcast post-1948 theatrical films on US network television. Several of them, like this one, had been filmed in CinemaScope, at its original 2.55:1 ratio, and so had to be "formatted to fit your screen" i.e. shown pan/scan in the conventional 4:3 TV ratio, losing nearly half of the image in the process, and literally destroying the composition of each scene. But viewers didn't seem to mind. The idea proved so successful that NBC soon followed it up with another series with the identical format, "Monday Night at the Movies", and it wasn't long before the format was taken up by both CBS and ABC.
According to Nunnally Johnson', Lauren Bacall (who was known as "Betty" to her friends) and Betty Grable became instant pals. "I don't think Betty Bacall and Betty Grable had ever met before," he said. "...But Betty Bacall fell in love with Grable and now thinks she's the funniest clown she ever had the pleasure of knowing. Which is not far from true. Miss Grable is a real hooligan, and is a fine salty, bawdy girl, without an ounce of pretense about her. In addition, she's giving a better performance than anything she ever did before."
Nunnally Johnson took notice of Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable's generosity towards Marilyn Monroe. "The two Bettys have gone out of their way to help, and make friends with Marilyn, but Miss Monroe is generally something of a zombie. Talking to her is like talking to somebody underwater. She's very honest and ambitious and is either studying her lines or her face during all of her working hours, and there is nothing whatever to be said against her, but she's not material for warm friendship."
According to Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe was a challenge to work with. It wasn't because she was unpleasant, but rather her insecurity and total dependence on her personal acting coach Natasha Lytess for approval. "Betty Grable was a funny, outgoing woman, totally professional and easy. Marilyn was frightened, insecure - trusted only her coach and was always late. During our scenes she'd look at my forehead instead of my eyes; at the end of a take, look to her coach, standing behind Jean Negulesco, for approval. If the headshake was no, she'd insist on another take. A scene often went to fifteen or more takes, which meant I'd have to be good in all of them as no one knew which one would be used. Not easy - often irritating. And yet I couldn't dislike Marilyn. She had no meanness in her - no bitchery. She just had to concentrate on herself and the people who were there only for her."
In one scene, the three women are talking to each other about who they would like to marry. Pola (Marilyn Monroe) says she would like to marry "Mr. Cadillac" and Schatze (Lauren Bacall) replies, "No such person, I checked." However there was a Mr. Cadillac. He was the French Governor of Canada and founded the city of Detroit. In 1710, he was named the Governor of Louisiana. The Cadillac was named after him and his surname lives on in the form of his descendants.
Alexander D'Arcy noticed the destructive nature of Marilyn Monroe's relationship with Natasha Lytess. "Natasha was really advising her badly, justifying her own presence on the set by requiring take after take and simply feeding on Marilyn's insecurity."
Signed to Twentieth Century-Fox since October 25, 1939, Betty Grable informed the studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck during production that she would not commit to the remaining three years of her latest contract. On June 3, 1953, a studio press release announced the official split. Returning only once to Fox, Betty would star in How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955), a vehicle in which Marilyn refused to appear and was replaced by Sheree North. Two unfulfilled proposals to have Miss Grable film again at Fox were the mother role (subsequently played by Ginger Rogers) in Teenage Rebel (1956) and then in 1964, another mom part in a project ultimately canceled named "High Heels."
By all accounts, it was a happy set, which may have been a disappointment to the naysayers who were certain there would be competitive infighting among its three glamorous stars. According to Nunnally Johnson, "The three girls are a good story. Everybody went around with their fingers in their ears blabbering about what temperament there would be on the set, and needless to say, the gossip columnists, those lice, have done everything possible to foment trouble for us. They've printed all kinds of mischievous rumors, quoting one against the other, and printing out fictitious privileges given to one above the other two, in the most desperate effort you ever saw to create feuds. But it hasn't worked in the least."
In a gracious display of camaraderie, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable decided not to fight with Marilyn Monroe. "Grable and I decided we'd try to make it easier for her," said Bacall, "make her feel she could trust us. I think she finally did."
In her 1979 memoir By Myself, Lauren Bacall recalled what it was like to work with the new CinemaScope technology. "As CinemaScope was a new experiment for everyone, it was difficult. One had to keep the actors moving and not too close together, as the screen was long and narrow. You shot longer scenes in CinemaScope, five or six pages without a stop, and I liked that - it felt closer to the stage and better for me."
The success of the film made its impact in many ways. It helped make an auspicious introduction for Fox's CinemaScope process to audiences and usher in a new era of widescreen entertainment. Lauren Bacall was able to prove that she could indeed play comedy with panache, and it opened a whole new avenue in her illustrious career that made her just as in demand for comedies on stage and screen as she was for drama. Betty Grable, Fox's long-reigning Queen of the Lot, was able to leave the studio on a high note at the end of her long run, taking with her some of the best reviews of her life. She would return to make just one more film for Fox - this time as a free agent - in How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955).
As the film was close to wrapping up production, everyone was confident that the filming had gone well and that they had made a delightful film. "We'll be through with the picture early next week and what I've seen of it looks pretty good in this new CinemaScope, wrote Nunnally Johnson in a letter to a friend. "It's a larkish story, the girls look very beautiful, and its purpose is to see if something indoors and with just two or three people can look good on the new wide screen."
Zoe Akins's play, "The Greeks Had a Word for It," opened on Broadway in New York City, New York, USA on 25 September 1930 and closed in May 1931 after 253 performances. The opening night cast included Verree Teasdale, Muriel Kirkland and Dorothy Hall. Dale Eunson's and Katherine Albert's play, "Loco," opened on Broadway in New York City, New York, USA on 16 October 1946 and closed on 16 November 1946 after 37 performances. The opening night cast included Jean Parker as Loco. Parts of this play were added to beef up Betty Grable's part in the movie.