Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) Directed by Howard Hawks. Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid (91 min.)

This movie is one of my all time favorites because of the acting, costumes, story, people, and most of all the songs. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell make a perfect team for this movie. Marilyn is the stereotypical gold digging dumb blonde and Jane Russell is the "smarter" one of the two. Jane is always trying to make Marilyn Monroe happy, but Marilyn has her own ideas on happiness. Marilyn is engaged to a very rich man and then goes to France. On the boat ride over she meets a man who owns the second largest diamond mine in South Africa. She starts hanging around with him and almost gets into a very big jam but Jane Russell gets her out of it.

The very first song is "We're Just Two Little Girls from Little Rock" sung by Marilyn and Jane. My best friend and I sang this for the talent show in sixth grade and when we are bored we sing this song. Since she is the better singer of us two she gets to be Marilyn and I am Jane; we know our parts by heart. My favorite is "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" sung by Marilyn Monroe. This song tells about how girls do not need men, just the money they can get out of them. It is really a woman power song. In the new movie Moulin Rouge Nicole Kidman sings a revised version of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend". They did a good job redoing it but in the middle they put in a verse from Madonna's "Material Girl". I don't like Madonna and I don't like this added to the song.

Jane Russell is very good in this movie as well. Her big song and by far the funniest one in the movie is "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love?" She sings this song in the middle of a gym on a steam liner with a whole bunch of Olympic athletes doing a training routine around her. They are not very well coordinated and at one point they all line up with their butts sticking up and go up and down, and if you look carefully all of them go down except one. At the end of this song Jane Russell bends down in front of the pool and the men dive over her and into the pool. They all make it except one of them knocks her into the pool as well. Since this was the best take of the men diving they decided to use this one.

Many tries has been made to capture the magic of this classic film. One of them is Gentlemen Marry Brunettes. I saw this movie a few years ago and it was very bad. This movie also starred Jane Russell, however in this movie she plays the dumb girl of the two friends. This movie is so very horrible I could not even finish it. It is about two girls whose mothers were famous strippers in Paris, and the girls go to Paris to try to pick up where their mothers left off. The rest of the movie is about stupid situations that occur in Paris. I recommend you stick to the original movie which is wonderful, and do not stray off the beaten path.

The photograph is from a song, "Four French Dances" that was deleted from the movie. I do not know what it is about but here it is:

 

 

I really love movies where people think that someone is one thing and they turn out to be completely different, like Superman or Zorro. In this movie, every one thinks Marilyn is a dumb gold digging blonde and at the end she proves to every one that she is just as smart as anyone but that men like girls who act dumb. As a result of this movie Marilyn and Jane put their hand prints in the cement at Grauman's Chinese theater. When I went to Los Angeles I saw their hand prints myself and saw that Marilyn had very small hands.

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Notes by moviediva:

Anita Loos wrote Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (according to her memoir Cast of Thousands) in somewhat of a snit because a man she hoped would be interested in her for her brains was interested in a vapid blonde for her other attributes. A satire on the gold digging flappers of the Jazz Age, there is relatively little resemblance to the play, the silent film, the Broadway musical or the Monroe/Russell version. The book is written in the form of a diary and the humor is dependent on the heroine's fractured syntax and chronic misspelling. It remains intermittently funny, and Ralph Barton's drawings are charming, but Lorelei is in no way an empowered character. Todd McCarthy (in his biography Howard Hawks) calls it "one of the sensational and defining works of its era, a frank and ultimately downbeat look at a socially ambitious girl's life in the Roaring Twenties." Or, as the erstwhile object of her affection, H. L. Mencken said, "You're the first American writer ever to make fun of sex."

 

Loos' musical adaption of GPB made a huge Broadway star of Carol Channing playing Lorelei Lee and singing "Diamonds..." Loos said of Channing's replacement in the film, "Marilyn was more authentic, but Carol was funnier." Originally targeted for Fox star Betty Grable, the choice part of Lorelei was given to the upcoming starlet largely on the basis of her salary's being smaller. Marilyn only made $18,000 for GPB! Grable would have cost much more, and would of course have jeopardized the film's classic status. Jane Russell provided the box-office insurance of an established star, and the easy-going actress and Marilyn were companionable during the filming. This friendship seems reflected in the close bond between Lorelei and Dorothy.

"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes opens with one of the cinema's most zealous uses of Technicolor. A screaming blue-sequinned curtain bursts open as Russell and Monroe, packed into tight and brilliant red-sequinned dresses, storm onto the stage to the brassy opening chords of 'Two Little Girls from Little Rock.' No opening credits, not even a title--nothing appears on the screen to distract the audience from these two aggressive women." So writes Ed Sikov in his insightful appreciation of this amazing film in Laughing Hysterically: American Screen Comedy of the 1950s. All the men in GPB are weak and almost invisible, and become completely unhinged by the display that Monroe and Russell knowingly make of their voluptuous bodies. Sikov notes that when the film came out in 1953 reviewers were similarly distracted by the actresses' breasts, so much so that they were incapable of appreciating how this film, rather than being demeaning of its heroines, was about their extraordinary power in manipulating men. This was pretty much all the feminism had to offer in the repressive 1950s.

The film was directed by veteran Howard Hawks, yet arguably much of its punch comes from the staggeringly bizarre musical numbers staged by choreographer Jack Cole, an unsung hero of Monroe's screen image. "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" is perfection (even if a wisp of Marilyn's hair is out of place for a moment). Monroe, in a pink satin dress lined with felt for extra stiffness, taunts a line of tuxedo clad chorus boys and demonstrates her superiority to the other girls so ineffectual they have literally become part of the set, bizarrely harnessed to chandeliers. Russell asks "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love?" in another eye-popping set piece. There is something incongruously masculine about Russell in spite of her figure. She sings surrounded by gyrating male "Olympians" in tan trunks, more absorbed by their own body building routines than by the siren in their midst. That this supremely homoerotic scene passed the censors shows that prudes have no imagination.

 

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(Hand colored photo from moviediva jr.'s collection, Jane and the guys from Daniel Blum's Screen World 1954, illustration from 8th printing of GPB, February, 1926, moviediva's collection.)

c.moviedivaMay2003