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

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on August 1, 2010, in Classics, Comedy, Film Forum. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great review!

    We’re linking to your article for Marilyn Monroe Tuesday at SeminalCinemaOutfit.com

    Keep up the good work!

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