Comedy

Almost Like a Science – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

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It is more than likely that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes would have been a hit no matter what, but it became known for one thing more than anything else and that was Marilyn Monroe’s solo performance of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. It was a game-changing musical number whose influence would be felt for decades and would be the one role that would define Monroe as a film star. That is not to say that she did not make any other films of worth, because she did, it was simply that this one would have been successful had she talent or not and it helped that she did. One could even go so far and say that this movie while making a Monroe a real, bonafide starring actress, also hurt her career more than anything else as it pigeonholed her into a specific type of role that was hard for her to escape. Suffice it to say, good or bad, this is the role that everyone remembers Marilyn for, except perhaps for The Seven Year Itch that is.

gentlemen-prefer-blondes45gentlemen-prefer-blondes71Monroe was not alone in starring in this film though as Jane Russell, a brunette nearly as famous and nearly as beautiful (though that is clearly up to personal taste), would appear alongside her. The pair would play a couple of showgirls breezing their way through men and through life without a care in the world. Soon though, Marilyn’s character Lorelei is about to be married leaving Dorothy, played by Russell, alone and single. Of course, being a romantic comedy and all, you know that she is not going to remain single for long. The problem is, is that it is a long road to love and the altar and the girls fail at trying to stay out of trouble with the results being quite hilarious.

While there are elements of drama, and there are musical numbers from both women together and single, it is the comedy that really keeps this film going. Whether it is the interactions with the little boy played by George Winslow, Monroe trying to gain a diamond tiara no matter what she has to do or Russell trying to cover for Monroe, the film is filled with laughs from start to finish. The musical numbers which also helped to keep the pace up, aside from Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend and the solo performed by Russell called Anyone Here for Love,  were a little lacklustre when looking back on them. They were not terrible, but they were not showstoppers like the two previously mentioned and seemed very tame in comparison.

gentlemen-prefer-blondes44Tommy Noonan would appear as Monroe’s fiancé and Elliot Reid would be the man to fall in love with Russell in the picture, but aside from the two leading ladies, it was an elderly Charles Coburn who would steal the show as Piggy, a man whose wealth was made on diamonds and an instant mark for Lorelei. Coburn was an exceptionally talented actor and his comedic timing was perfect. He was never over the top with it and he always brought a touch of class to any scene that he happened to be in. Ultimately the film belongs to Marilyn and Jane with Russell deservedly getting top billing. Monroe was a good actress by this point in time, but Russell was a better one and she was the glue that would hold it all together. Without Russell, this film would have been an entirely different beast and probably not for the better, so it was a wise decision on Fox’s part to get her on board as she not only balanced the picture, but ended up being the perfect partner for Monroe.  Their chemistry was evident on screen and it really looked like they were truly friends which made the viewing experience all the better.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is that perfect marriage of script (Charles Lederer), direction (Howard Hawks) and star-power. It was funny, dramatic and it made Monroe a bigger star than she had ever been before and would lead into films like How to Marry a Millionaire, Some Like it Hot and The Misfits. There were many good musicals still to come during the year, and many more in the years following the release of this one, but none can deny the influence and popularity that this one would generate. It is easy to say that this is a fantastic movie in every way possible and real delight to watch, even upon multiple viewings.

5 out of 5
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7 replies »

  1. Charles Coburn was one of the great character actors of the day. He always enhanced the films he was in. Definitely, one of MM’s best roles. For me, when I think of Monroe I tend to lean toward Some Like it Hot more than The Seven Year Itch. That’s just personal taste obviously. Have you seen The Asphalt Jungle? She had a small but significant role and turned out be star making. Enjoyed!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve seen all of her films except maybe a couple of the lesser known ones where she had bit parts. Am currently making my way through them all again as it has been some time since I’ve seen them last.

      Like

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