How to Marry a Millionaire was one of three pictures that Marilyn Monroe would star in come 1953 and in this outing she would share that spotlight with Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable, which in itself was intriguing to see as Grable used to be the number one pinup queen in the 1940s and Monroe, was by all rights, her successor in the 1950s. The film has a simple premise, executed well by the three leading ladies previously mentioned and this comedy while not a movie that will have you in stitches, will have you enjoying yourself immensely despite that fact. Directed by Jean Negulesco and even featuring an older William Powell in a bit role, the film finds the three ladies looking for love in essentially, all the wrong places. Under Bacall’s leadership, the three of them set out to land themselves millionaire husbands, knowing that money may not buy love, but it at least makes things much more comfortable. Instead, things take a different turn and nothing goes according to any plan.
As soon as the film starts with Bacall looking at renting the apartment, you can tell that she has some sort of scheme in mind and after Monroe and Grable make the scene, you know that things are only going to get a lot more interesting from that moment on and not in a bad way. Yet for everything that they do to land a man, and they are not unattractive women, they just cannot seem to do so. What is also quite funny is that Bacall, who heads this whole operation up and is assumedly trying the hardest of the three, is the last woman to wind up married which, as far as romantic comedies go, is par for the course. It is actually a little humourous to see that even sixty-plus years ago, films in this genre essentially from then till now, still play out the very same way today with little variation. As it is though, the picture was no less entertaining because of it and watching these women only made you smile for the entire length of the film.
Bacall was excellent as the matriarch of the bunch, being the no-nonsense, tough as nails ringleader. Her character knew what she wanted and she would settle for no less despite what she felt. In that respect, her friends played by Monroe and Grable have quite meek personalities when compared to her, though they themselves are just as strong, simply showing it in different ways and especially for putting up with her somewhat standoffish attitude at times. It is no surprise that out of the three women, Monroe and Grable were the first to get married as they were far more likeable as characters and seemed less like an animal on the hunt and simply a couple of girls looking for love.
Despite the laughs of which there were a few, some of the comedy that made itself known was delivered through slight winks to the more knowledgeable of the movie-going public at the time. One such instance had Bacall telling William Powell how she liked older men including ‘that guy from African Queen,’ which as everyone knows was her husband at the time, Humphrey Bogart. Another gave a nod during a fashion show to Monroe’s previous film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the song Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, when she comes out in a bathing suit wearing diamonds. They were casual and smart little moments that made you smile, if you were in the know, and made the film just a little bit better because of them.
Overall, the movie is a definite win and one of Monroe’s best pictures. The dresses worn by the women and the costumery in general looked great, the music including the little overture was done really well and the cast themselves really made the picture an enjoyable experience overall. This is easily a film that you could watch again and again simply because it is one of those unassuming movies, sort of, that makes you feel good by the end of it and really, who does not love a happy ending?