Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
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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
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.
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
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 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!"
Jane Russell on the other hand, brings a more mascular, homey feeling into the film, in which most audiences can easily relate too. This factor I also found very appealing.
The Choreography within the film is extraordinary, and most the piece are done as if it were clockwork!
Yours, julianallees 12th August, 2008 8:04pm
The musical numbers are just an excuse for clever rhymes, sequined costumes, and shimmying choreography, and they succeed on all charges. Monroe and Russell duet on the jazzy "Two Little Girls from Little Rock" and the plaintive "When Love Goes Wrong" (a country/blues song sung at a Parisian café). The highlight, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" is an over-the-top riot of Technicolor, diamonds, dancers, and Monroe's insinuating, breathy vocals, though the song is also fun when Russell kicks it up in a courtroom. Then there's the hilarious "Anybody Here For Love?" which Russell performs in front of a chorus of male bodybuilders in flesh-colored briefs.
What I love most about "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" is that it's a female buddy movie. Of course, in one sense, it plays into sexist stereotypes--Lorelei is a gold-digging airhead and Dorothy flirts shamelessly with any handsome guy. But in another sense, it's pretty rare for Hollywood to depict two beautiful women as friends and equals, not rivals. Although gentlemen may prefer blondes, Dorothy is never jealous of Lorelei, and despite her cynical wisecracks, she deeply cares for her. The girls will always put their friendship before romance, and help each other out of a jam. Monroe and Russell sparkle together, but lack chemistry with their C-list male costars; in the end, you feel like these guys don't deserve two such vibrant women. Kind of ironic, then, that the movie's hit song claims "diamonds are a girl's best friend," when the rest of the movie celebrates the best-friendship between Lorelei and Dorothy.
Baisically, this film is a classic from it's era and is highly recommended. I'm currently studying Media and also Cinema and so this was a very worthwhile film to watch to learn more about it's era and I really enjoyed it. Memorable moments include, of course, the iconic performance of "Diamonds are a girl's Best Friend" courtesy of Monroe (It inspired Madonna's music video "Material Girl" - which is basically a carbon copy of the entire scene in this movie), the classic line "I Just Love Finding New Places to Wear Diamonds!" and so much more. I've also become really interested in the life and work of Marilyn Monroe as a result of seeing the movie. A must see if you're interested in Classic Hollywood or Marilyn Monroe
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.
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.
All you do through this film is watch Russell, and grin at her gumption. (Yeah, I said it.)
Even in the famous "gay" number, that number only works because Russell is in on the joke, and plays along.
Also: Howard Hawks is often referred to as misogynistic, based on the majority of male protagonists in his films.
That needs to be nipped in the bud:
This is the man who discovered Marilyn Monroe in "Monkey Business," and then starred her in this film. This is the man responsible for Lauren Bacall's famous screen debut in "To Have and Have Not." This is the man who directed the buddy movie that brought Louise Brooks to G. W. Pabst's attention while he was casting "Pandora's Box." This is the man who defined Katherine Hepburn's screen image when he directed her in "Bringing Up Baby." This is the man who directed "His Girl Friday," as strong an argument as I can imagine, posited in 1940, that women are the equal of any man stupid enough to cross them.
To this day, it boggles my mind that the man who shaped, oh, I don't know how many of the 20th century cinema's female icons, could be considered misogynistic.
But all of that aside: Jane Russell rocks this move.
This was hardly fair (as Marilyn did eventually prove; and as fellow movie bombshells like Jayne Mansfield rarely did). Marilyn had popped up in some films of interest: the last Marx Brother Movie (as a Marx Brother Movie), LOVE HAPPY - but only for one wasted moment; MONKEY BUSINESS (as an imagined rival to Ginger Rogers - but again wasted, as she was playing opposite Cary Grant); THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (where she was Louis Calhern's mistress); CLASH BY NIGHT (where she essayed a serious part, but was again in support to Barbara Stanwyck). I suspect it was that her physical attributes dictated the sex appeal over anything else. But it wasted one third of her film career!
Marilyn was not seen to have a brain. Other blonds did show intelligence (Doris Day and Kim Novak and Grace Kelly come to mind, and all three were getting meatier roles in this period). But Marilyn could only hope for some break to take her out of the background.
Anita Loos had written her novella in the 1920s, and it was a smash hit then and ever since. One really ought to read the book to understand a small difference between Loos' view of Lorelei Lee of Little Rock, Arkansas, and both the musical version of Carol Channing and the film version of Marilyn to see the improvement in the latter two. Loos was spoofing the dumb blond. Lorelei is dumb - she has no sense of the real world. She is telling her own story in the novella (by the way, Carol Channing actually did a recording of the book that is worth listening to). Lorelei is the sort of idiot who insists she was an actress in film because she was in the Babylonian palace staircase shot (with 10,000 other people) in Griffiths' INTOLERANCE. She is a good time girl - a modern flapper sans intelligence. Money and success fall into her lap (quite literally) due to her affect on men. She's aware of it, but she lacks the sense that the stage and screen versions add.
Channing and Monroe both show they understand that CURRENTLY they are appealing to men, but that with aging they can't depend on this attraction to pay the bills. Monroe (in the film) may try to imagine what a tiara would look like on her in a childish way at a ship's dinner table, but she knows the security of owning such jewelry brings. The final moment that her cleverness is revealed is when she confronts Taylor Holmes (the father of her fiancé Tommy Noonan) in Paris. She openly says she is interested in Holmes' money, and that men are hypocrites because they want their daughters to marry only rich men, and don't want their sons to wind up with "gold diggers". Holmes has to admit that she is smarter than he was told, and she says she can be smart when she wants to be.
The appealing thing of the film is the camaraderie between Monroe and Jane Russell. People hearing of the teaming thought the set would become a real war-zone between blonde and brunette bombshells. Instead the two actresses became lifelong friends, and their friendship translates well between that of Lorelie and Dorothy Shaw. They both are aware of their effect on men, and their need for a supporting sister figure. And they work fine as a team. Note how they handle Elliot Reid when they want to get the incriminating photos he's taken of Marilyn and Charles Coburn ("Beakie").
The men do well in their parts, especially Noonan as the fretful Gus and Reid as the smart (usually) detective Ernie (he does eventually prove himself to the satisfaction of Russell). George Winslow's "Henry Spofford III" has a wonderful moment warning Monroe about that old goat's (Coburn's) intentions. Coburn is fine, usually henpecked by his overbearing wife Norma Varden.
As for the loss of the Julie Styne tunes, the musical is firmly set in the 1920s and many references (to prohibition, and historically forgotten folks like actor Fiske O'Hara) are quite dim. Modernizing the tale was not a bad idea. And the two Carmichael tunes - especially Russell's number with the Olympic team - are good. It was an excellent first major part for Monroe to step into.
Most prominently Gentlemen Prefer Blondes has fantastic songs and musical performances (most famously Monroe's Diamond's Are a Girl's Best Friend.) Though for my money Russell is the better musical performer. For me it is like Chicago where Catherine Zeta Jones, the brunette co-star, out performed (and out sex-appealed) the blonde, top-billed star. Rene Zellweger was that blonde in Chicago.
Next, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is surprisingly sexy for 1953. Further (and I'm not sure about this) it displays more skin (both male and female) than any film that preceded it. The dresses Monroe and Russell wear in the opening scene still shock. Plus there are many cleverly placed and innocently spoken double-entendres (such as the girls discussing the bugle in Esmond's pocket while he watches them perform). And most startling is the homoerotic dance number featuring basically nude male dances representing the US Olympic team. This is also the best song and dance number in the film it is the sexy bookend to Monroe's Diamonds Are a Girl's Best friend toward the end of the film. (It would be interesting for a pop-culture historian to discuss if the homoerotic elements in Russell's song were at all obvious to the 1950s audience or if society as a whole was too closeted to even acknowledge it. I'm betting on the latter, otherwise I cannot imagine it getting past the censors.) Director Howard Hawks makes the interesting choice to present Monroe's character as self-consciously superficial and proud of it. A fitting choice, in that the film itself is self-consciously superficial there is nothing (internal to the film) to consider after watching it. Monroe famously states, "It is just as easy to love a rich man as a poor man", and that is all the film is about her marrying the rich man.
There is, surprisingly, quite a bit to consider external to film both culturally and within film history. Primarily is how boldly and without emotional conflict Monroe's character espouses her life theory get rich by marring a rich man, love be damned. Lorelei is unapologetic and open about her pursuit, disclosing her intentions not only to Dorothy but also to Esmond (and his Dad). The feature song and dance number "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes version of Gordon Gekko "greed is good" speech in Wall St. (I'm sure historians could make a number of boring points about capitalism vs. socialism and 1950s cold war policy at this point.) Further Hawks makes sure Lorelei does not learn anything along the way. She does not fall in love with Esmond, nor does she find anything admirable in Esmond aside from his money. In a very odd way she is an unapologetic woman of her convictions, telling both her finance and his father, I'm marrying in for the cash and don't you think I'm worth it? But you really need not think beyond the screen to enjoy this film. It is pure candy so just lean back, smile and take in the Technicolor sweets.
Should you see it? Fabulously on the big screen.
They end up on a cruise to Paris among a bulky men's Olympic team, and wealthy African diamond miner (and his wife), a private detective, and any other rich gentlemen that Lorelei can get her mittens on. Conflicts arise when Lorelei begins chasing after other men's money while Dorothy falls in love with the wrong kind of man. They end up having to decide between a a life full of money or happiness.
Monroe and Russell are knock-outs in this film; full-bodied, sassy and sultry, thanks to Hawk's sharp direction. They each play off each other's assets - Monroe, fully utilising her bodily assets playing the ditsy blonde, while the more level headed Russell provides the cynic of the pair.
The script is a laugh-out-loud riot showcasing Monroe's ability to deliver dead pan lines and demonstrating she never shies away from an opportunity to make fun of herself. Plus there are many classic screwball moments that bounce the farce along.
The limited amount of musical numbers are slickly directed by Hawks, well orchestrated and toe-tappingly fun, vibrant with colours, utilising a large crew of back-up singers and dancers. The music & lyrics by Styne & Robin are joyous and lively diversions.
I recently watched this film in a small public screening as part of a "Goddess" art exhibition. It was quite an experience to have the entire theatre erupt in riots of laughter, even applauding during certain moments. While at times implausible and absurd, it's far too easy to overlook this for it's charm and opportunity to see Monroe and Hawks at their comical bests.
Marilyn's pitch-perfect as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee. She played the 'dumb blonde' better than anybody in movie history. It's impossible not to like her, even when she's doing things you might not agree with. Jane's never been better than here playing Marilyn's sassy man-crazy best friend. Charles Coburn is the horny owner of a diamond mine. Child actor George Winslow steals every scene he's in. Tommy Noonan is fun as Marilyn's fiancé. Elliott Reid is the weakest part of the cast as the private detective who falls for Jane. He's just so stiff and corny that I couldn't see what a great dish like Jane Russell could see in him. He looks like a Fed.
Lots of great lines and scenes. Possibly the best thing about the movie is just how gorgeous it looks. I'm not just talking about the leading ladies, who are both stunning. The Technicolor just pops off the screen. One of my favorite movies of all time. It'll make you smile from start to finish. Colorful, funny, sexy, with enjoyable performances and wonderful songs. Includes one of Marilyn's defining moments - "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." An absolute must-see classic.
It's the story of Lorelei and Dorothy, two lounge singers/best friends who couldn't be more opposite. They both set sail on a ship bound for a foreign country; Lorelei to make her hesitant fiancé come after her, and Dorothy to watch after Lorelei- and to have some fun for herself. They're in for more than they bargained for, though, on this ship. with the appearance of a diamond mine-owning rich man and a somewhat sneaky gentlemen friend, Lorelei finds herself in trouble with diamonds yet again... and Dorothy just might be falling in love.
The movie is hilarious the entire way through. I guarantee you'll laugh out loud more than once. I know I did. Marylin Monroe is spot-on perfect as the beautiful and stupid diamond-obsessed girl Lorelei. Jane Russell, on the other hand, is perfect as the easy-going fun lover who's about to meet her match. Several excellent numbers throughout, all handled perfectly by the ladies. This film is a definite must-see for everyone of all ages. 8/10 stars!
Of course, Marilyn (Lorelei) thought that just one RICH man made up for all that. Hang on to your diamonds, ladies, and make sure you know when the market is up! Ouch, Marilyn, I wish you could have kept the tiara, or at least given it to ME!!!!!!
The opening number with Jane and Marilyn singing and dancing, dressed in those beautiful red, slinky, "slit up to here" outfits, just took my breath away! To think that after all those years (1953), and until now (2006), 53 years to be exact, that act still dazzles and is so awesome. It was a very fast moving showstopper, and certainly set the pace for the story that soon was to unfold.
The detective was sorta mean and a bumbler, and he just caved when he realized he didn't want to lose Dorothy (Jane). That she married him was sort of humdrum. I wished she would have held out for one (or 20!) of the Olympic athletes. That would have made more sense.
At any rate, the double wedding scene was cool at the end, and I loved seeing the two brides in their white gowns, and carrying their white bouquets, singing their song. Loved it! A classic.
Ever so (breathlessly)!!!!!!
P.S. Happy Birthday, Mr. President, wherever you are!!!
Marylyn Monroe and Jane Russell are two single babes who embark on an ocean liner bound for Europe in hopes of attracting Mr. Right. Sporting extravagant clothes by Travilla, these are two middle class ladies looking to move up a few income brackets by nabbing a well-to-do gentleman.
Marylin's character Lorelei is the more aggressive of the pair. She is relentless in her search, going ape when she spots an older man with a diamond mine. Jane plays Dorothy, the more sensitive, but brassy one.
Trouble brews when Lorelei gets involved with the diamond mine owner. As it turns out, Jane's love interest has been hired to spy on the millionaire by his jealous wife. Lorelei and Dorothy learn that pictures have been taken of the illicit affair and they create a scheme to clear their millionaire and Lorelei from any wrong doing. Unfortunately, Lorelei's passion for diamonds brings out her stubborn side, and that makes for an even bigger mess.
This is a classic Monroe film, offering some of her most famous moments. The 'Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend' number is fabulous and completely sums up the theme of the story. Monroe's acting ability is certainly not challenged here. She plays the bubbly blonde that she has become legendary for, this time proving that there are some brains underneath all that dye.
Russell is a good match for Monroe, her natural moxy complimenting Monroe's airy delivery. She also manages to stand out, even against the ever glamorous Marylin. The image of her dancing around a gymnasium, waving two ping pong paddles at ignorant muscle boys, as she sings about her own problems with love is very hot!
Gentleman Prefer Blondes is a must see for Marylin fans, and a great waste of time for anyone that likes fluffy movies. Every aspect of the film has fun written all over it. The musical numbers are upbeat, the sets and the costumes are colorful (not to mention, over the top) and the performances are great. This is schmaltzy 1950's film making at its best!
And let's be realistic for just a moment. There is a little opportunist in all of us just itching to get out!