Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, Howard Hawks)

My most important discovery about this film is that Marilyn Monroe’s performance (specifically her facial gestures) is the basis for Dean Stockwell’s Ben in Blue Velvet. Look into their eyes. Discovery #2 is that the film had a sequel (based on the sequel to the source novel), Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, but the only two people who worked on both movies were star Jane Russell and the costume designer. Not even the studio was the same. Discovery #3 was that this film was based on a novel!

Very great movie, starring Marilyn and Jane Russell at about the halfway point of their respective film careers. Mismatched friends on a pleasure cruise to France, Marilyn is a gold digger who is no genius but still smarter than she ever lets on, and Jane wants to find a good man, money or no money. Tommy Noonan (charlie ford in I Shot Jesse James) is Marilyn’s very rich wimp of a fiance who is content to be loved for his money. Elliott Reid (mostly a tv actor, starring in an indie film later this year) is the private eye whom Noonan’s father hires to spy on the girls aboard the ship and who falls in love with Jane. George Winslow (apparently a pretty famous child actor at the time) is hilarious upper-class kid Henry Spofford III. And the great Charles Coburn (The Lady Eve) is Piggy Beekman, a diamond mine owner who bumps into Marilyn. Piggy ends up giving a diamond tiara to Marilyn, Piggy’s wife reports it stolen, and Jane has to sub for Marilyn in a climactic courtroom scene, even stripping down and performing her “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” (better than marilyn’s version, according to Katy) in court to stall for time.

The Howard Hawks irreverent/comic worldview and his “alternative forms of social and sexual arrangements outside of Hollywood’s idealisation of the nuclear family” are in proud effect here. The songs are great, Marilyn is great, and Jane manages not to be blown off the stage nor does she act out to overcompensate. Katy liked it too!

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