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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

 

 Classic.. annother yawn-inspiring classic...
Classic.. another yawn-inspiring classic...

Genre: Musical Comedy Romance

Starring:  Marilyn Monroe (Some Like It HotThe Seven Year Itch), Jane Russell (The OutlawThe Paleface)

Directed By: Howard Hawks (Rio BravoThe Big Sleep)

Overview: Two cabaret singing best friends, Lorelei and Dorothy, travel to France under the watchful eye of a private detective. Sent by her fiancée’s father, his job is to find dirt on the gold digging Lorelei in hopes of stopping his wedding.

When I popped in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, I realized that I had seen it before – and recently too. Having completely forgotten it once before, that meant I couldn't judge this screwball Musical based on what I remembered, because it was completely forgettable. This second time around, it was all too easy to focus on awkward moments. There’s the comic twilling sound heard everytime Lorelei dazes her boyfriend with her kisses. There’s that stomach-turning unsexiness that comes from being called Daddy by one’s girlfriend. There’s the worst of the musical numbers, the monotonously sung “Ain’t There Anyone Here For Love” where our dark-haired brunette Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) sings about being an athletic mess. The choreography has athletes exercising while she ponces about, posing in that ever so 50s way that is hysterically over-represented, overstated, and over… well, in short, in that perfect Musical way, which is why I hate Musicals. You know you’d think people would know to lip sync properly. God, it's so distracting.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The aforementioned ridiculously blonde Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) is – questionably – in love with millionaire boyfriend Gus Esmond Jr. (Tommy Noonan). She makes no fuss about his money being the major factor in her love for him. Her best friend and fellow cabaret dancer is the far more down to earth and intelligent Dorothy Shaw, you know, the kind of girl who prefers love over cash. Gus and Lorelei are planning a cruise to France until he’s called away on business. Dorothy subs in, playing the part of chaperone. It’s her job to keep Lorelei out of scandalous trouble. Gus knows that his even-richer father will find out if Gus' flighty fiancée does anything improprietous. The private dick hired to snap photos of her indiscretions finds himself immediately enamoured with Dorothy, and thus the double-date subplot begins, with a fifth wheel in the form of the rich diamond guy Sir Francis 'Piggy' Beekman (Charles Coburn). Lorelei find his wife’s tiara absolutely charming.

This kis was creepy good
This kis was creepy good

Marilyn Monroe acts her usual delicate self, moving her lips in that way that makes her intensely amazingly gorgeous, but in this film she's a total ditz - not that she isn't in most of her films, but in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes she’s particularly ...pungent. Even her cadence becomes awkward when she speaks her lines in a strange extra-ennunciative fashion that was quite obviously directed like that on purpose. She plays a brazen gold digger who seeks old rich men to pay her in diamonds because as the hit song and best of the musical numbers declares, “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend.” It's cute until her outright thievery begins to sicken me. Another musical number that made me squirm was “When Love Goes Wrong.” Particularly painful even by musical standards, why this little number is listed as one of the reasons it deserves to be in the 1001 Book is a clear indication that I just plain old don’t get it.

It’s not all a bust for this critic. It did elicit a few laugh out loud moments, especially surrounding the 8 year young Mr. Henry Spofford III, a distinguished fellow "who can appreciate a pretty girl". “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend” reminds us of the best that Busby Berkley had to offer in the 40s, including an awesome S&M chandelier and matching candleholders with women trussed up on those things all bound in black - you have to check out that hotness. Without a doubt the inspiration to Madonna's “Material Girl” video, you could save yourself an hour and a half and just watch that most famous of the songs in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and you wouldn't lose much, all while getting the best of the whole film.

She's a real material girl... I mean REAL

 She's a real material girl... I mean VERY

Performance: 6 Cinematography: 8 Script: 6 Plot: 7 Mood: 6

Overall Rating: 66% (Squish Prefers Brains)
Aftertaste:

As a historian of film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is pretty integral, dare I say one of the safest of Musical Comedy Champions out there all tied together into a 50s package. No, I didn't expect to like this and yes, it's as bad as I didn't remember the first time, but it has the formula down pat. For me though, Musical Screwball Romance... well that’s a recipe for disaster all around, filled with all the little quirky things that Musical haters despise. Those of you into it, well, don’t hesitate.

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I was all set to disagree with you - because I love musicals and I know our opinions usually diverge when it comes to this genre - but I've never been so happy for a 90-minute run time. Most musicals play pretty lightly with reality - and usually that doesn't bother me, but the scene with Jane Russell breaking into a full on dance number int he middle of a french courtroom just pushed it a bit too over the top for me. That coupled with the awkwardness you referred to and the lack of really good music ("diamonds" excepted) made this a real stinker for me.Lots of double-entendres in the scripting could have saved this if they weren't so poorly delivered. I feel like the Marx Bros could have improved on this immensely.

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