Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
From August 6 – 12 Film Forum will present a stunning, restored 35mm print of Howard Hawk’s 1953 comedy “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. The restoration is a real find for Monroe fans and will no doubt be cause for conversion from non-fans.
In “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” Monroe established herself as an adept comic actress as well as a talented singer and dancer. Prior to “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” Monroe displayed comedic talent, in small parts, playing bubble headed blondes in “All About Eve” (1950) and “Monkey Business” (1952). Now, with a leading role, Monroe was able to display her full range of talent.
Monroe plays gold digging Lorelei Lee, a “dumb” blonde, who proves to be smarter than you might think. Lorelei is a night club performer, who, along with performing partner Dorothy Shaw (Russell), is on a cruise ship to Paris. Lorelei is up front about wanting to marry a rich man, as she loves money and diamonds. Dorothy is attracted to men who are good looking but poor, although she cannot seem to get the attention of the buff, topless male athletes who work out around her as she sings, “Anyone Here for Love?” Hmmm…
Seeing the film now, one of its most striking elements, in addition to Monroe’s comedic abilities, is Monroe’s natural agility at singing and dancing in the film’s musical numbers. These include the iconic “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” (aped many years later by Madonna in her “Material Girl” video) and “Two Little Girls from Little Rock,” the film’s opening number, performed by Monroe and Russell, which effortlessly slides us into the rest of the film.
The story has been told that Darryl Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, upon seeing the dailies of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” was surprised that Monroe, who he considered to be merely a sex symbol, could actually sing. Zanuck, the story goes, had Monroe sing for him in his office to prove that her scenes were not dubbed (although eventually some of Monroe’s high notes were touched up by famous voice substitute Marni Nixon).
“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” as this restoration shows, is also noteworthy for its eye-popping color design and costumes. Director Hawks is quoted as having said, “We purposely made it as loud and bright as we could, and completely vulgar.”
A fun supporting cast includes Charles Coburn, who seems to have made a career playing comedic older men, and Tommy Noonan as Monroe’s nebbishy, but rich, love interest.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Director Howard Hawks, 1953, Twentieth Century Fox, 91 minutes