Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953 film)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a 1953 American musical comedy film based on the 1949 stage musical of the same name. It was directed by Howard Hawks and stars Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe, with Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid, Tommy Noonan, George Winslow, Taylor Holmes and Norma Varden in supporting roles.
|Gentlemen Prefer Blondes|
|Directed by||Howard Hawks|
|Produced by||Sol C. Siegel|
|Screenplay by||Charles Lederer|
|Music by||Hoagy Carmichael|
|Cinematography||Harry J. Wild|
|Edited by||Hugh S. Fowler|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$5.3 million|
The film is filled with comedic situations and musical numbers, choreographed by Jack Cole, while the music was written by Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Adamson, Jule Styne and Leo Robin. The songs by Styne and Robin are from the Broadway show, while the songs by Carmichael and Adamson were written especially for the film. Despite the film's title, Monroe was paid her usual contract salary of $500 a week, while Russell, then the better known actress, earned $200,000.
While Russell's down-to-earth, sharp wit has been observed by most critics, it was Monroe's turn as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee for which the film is often remembered. Monroe's rendition of the song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" and her pink dress are considered iconic, and the performance has inspired homages by Madonna, Beyoncé, Geri Halliwell, Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Anna Nicole Smith, Christina Aguilera, Ariana Grande, and James Franco.
Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) are American showgirls and best friends. Lorelei has a passion for diamonds, believing that attracting a rich husband is one of the few ways a woman can succeed economically. She is engaged to Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan), a naïve nerd willing to do or buy anything for her. However, Gus is under the control of his wealthy, upper-class father. Dorothy, on the other hand, is looking for a different kind of love, attracted only to men who are good-looking and fit.
Lorelei plans to wed Gus in France, but Esmond, Sr. stops his son from sailing, believing that Lorelei is bad for him. Lorelei decides to travel to France with or without Gus, and before she leaves he gives her a letter of credit to cover expenses upon her arrival, and promises to later meet her in France. However, he also warns her to behave, noting that his father will prohibit their marriage if rumors of misdeeds make their way to Esmond, Sr. Unbeknownst to both of them, Esmond, Sr. has hired a private detective, Ernie Malone (Elliott Reid), to spy on Lorelei.
During the Atlantic crossing, Malone immediately falls in love with Dorothy, but Dorothy has already been drawn to the members of the (male-only) Olympic athletics team. Lorelei meets the rich and foolish Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman (Charles Coburn), the owner of a diamond mine, and is attracted by his wealth; although Piggy is married, Lorelei naively returns his geriatric flirtations, which annoys his wife, Lady Beekman (Norma Varden).
Lorelei invites Piggy to the cabin she shares with Dorothy, whereupon he recounts his travels to Africa. While Piggy demonstrates how a python squeezes a goat by hugging Lorelei, Malone spies on them through the window and takes pictures of the two, but is caught by Dorothy as he walks away nonchalantly. She tells Lorelei, who fears for her reputation. They come up with a scheme to intoxicate Malone and then search him to recover the incriminating film while he is unconscious. They find the film in his pants, and Lorelei promptly prints and hides the negatives. Revealing her success to Piggy, she persuades him to give her Lady Beekman's tiara as a thank you gift. However, Malone reveals he had planted a recording device in Lorelei's cabin, and has heard her discussion with Piggy about the pictures and the tiara. Malone implies that Lorelei is a golddigger and, when Dorothy scolds him for his actions, admits that he himself is a liar. However, Dorothy reveals to Lorelei she is falling for Malone, after which Lorelei chastises her for choosing a poor man when she could easily have a rich one.
The ship arrives in France, and Lorelei and Dorothy spend time shopping. However, the pair discover that Lorelei's letter of credit has been cancelled and are then kicked out of their hotel due to the information Malone shared with Esmond, Sr. The duo are forced to find work as showgirls in Paris, headlining a lavish revue. When Gus shows up at their show, Lorelei rebuffs him, after which she performs Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend, the musical number whose lyrics explain why and how women need to pursue men with money. Meanwhile, Lady Beekman has filed charges regarding her missing tiara, and Lorelei is arraigned for theft. Dorothy persuades Lorelei to return the tiara, but the pair discover it is missing from her jewelry box. Piggy tries to weasel out of his part in the affair when Malone catches him at the airport.
Dorothy stalls for time in court by pretending to be Lorelei, disguised in a blonde wig and mimicking her friend's breathy voice and mannerisms. When Malone appears in court and is about to unmask "Lorelei" as Dorothy, she reveals to Malone in covert language that she, Dorothy, loves him but would never forgive him if he were to do anything to hurt her best friend, Lorelei. Malone withdraws his comments, but then reveals Piggy has the tiara, exonerating Lorelei.
Back at the nightclub, Lorelei impresses Esmond, Sr. with a speech on the subject of paternal money, and also makes an argument that if Esmond, Sr. had a daughter instead of a son, he would want the best for her, to which he agrees and consents to his son's marriage to Lorelei. The film closes with a double wedding for Lorelei and Dorothy, who marry Esmond and Malone, respectively.
Although Hawks is credited as the sole director of the film, Russell and assistant choreographer Gwen Verdon contend that Monroe's iconic musical number, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend", was actually directed by choreographer Cole. Russell said, "Howard Hawks had nothing to do with the musical numbers. He was not even there." Hawks himself confirmed as much in an interview with author Joseph McBride, "I did a musical called Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and I didn't do the production numbers. I didn't have any desire to."
The film earned $5.3 million at the box office worldwide, and was the eighth highest-grossing film of 1953, with $5.1 million grossed in North America, while Monroe's next feature, How to Marry a Millionaire, was the fifth-highest.
The film received positive reviews from critics. Monroe and Russell were both praised for their performances as Lorelei and Dorothy even among those critics who were not otherwise impressed by the film; the characters have entered pop culture. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called Howard Hawks' direction "uncomfortably cloddish and slow" and found the gags for Russell "devoid of character or charm," but concluded, "And yet, there is that about Miss Russell and also about Miss Monroe that keeps you looking at them even when they have little or nothing to do." Variety wrote that Hawks "maintains a racy air that brings the musical off excellently at a pace that helps cloak the fact that it's rather lightweight, but sexy, stuff. However, not much more is needed when patrons can look at Russell-Monroe lines as displayed in slick costumes and Technicolor." Harrison's Reports wrote: "Both Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe are nothing short of sensational in the leading roles. They not only act well, but the sexy manner in which they display their song, dance and pulchritude values just about sets the screen on fire and certainly is crowd-pleasing, judging by the thunderous applause at the preview after each of the well-staged musical numbers." John McCarten of The New Yorker wrote that the two leads "have a good deal of enthusiasm, and occasionally their exuberance offsets the tedium of one long series of variations on the sort of anatomical joke that used to amuse the customers of Minsky so inordinately." Britain's Monthly Film Bulletin praised Jane Russell for her "enjoyable Dorothy, full of gusto and good nature," but thought that the film had been compromised from the play "by the casting of Marilyn Monroe, by the abandonment of the 20s period and the incongruous up-to-date streamlining, by inflating some bright, witty songs into lavish production numbers, and by tamely ending the whole thing by letting two true loves conventionally come true. There is too, a lack of grasp in Howard Hawks' handling, which is scrappy and uninventive."
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 98% based on 41 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Anchored by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell's sparkling magnetism, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a delightfully entertaining 1950s musical." German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder declared it one of the ten best films ever made.
Monroe and Russell were accorded the honor of putting their hand and foot prints in cement in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, a spectacle that got a lot of publicity for both actresses and for the film.
|Date of ceremony||Award||Category||Recipients||Result|
|February 25, 1954||Writers Guild of America Awards||Best Written Musical||Charles Lederer||Nominated|
- "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
- Solomon, Aubrey (2002). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series. 20. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 248. ISBN 9780810842441. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
- Solomon, Aubrey (2002). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series. 20. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 89. ISBN 9780810842441. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
- "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- McCarthy, Todd (1997). Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood (1st ed.). New York: Grove Press. p. 508. ISBN 0-8021-1598-5. OCLC 35919352.
- McBride, Joseph (2013) . Hawks on Hawks (illustrated [second] ed.). Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-8131-4431-3. OCLC 867742212.
- "All Time Domestic Champs". Variety. January 6, 1960. p. 34.
- Prial, Frank J. (March 6, 2007). "Voice of the Many, but Rarely Herself". The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
- Crowther, Bosley (July 16, 1953). "The Screen In Review; Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' at Roxy, With Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell". The New York Times: 17. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
- Brogdon, William (July 1, 1953). "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". Variety: 6. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
- "'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' with Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell and Charles Coburn". Harrison's Reports. XXXV (26): 102. June 27, 1953. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
- McCarten, John (July 25, 1953). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 46. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
- "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 20 (236): 131. September 1953.
- "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". ArtsEmerson. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
- "Actresses Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell putting signatures, hand and foot prints in cement at Grauman's Theater, 1953". Los Angeles Times. June 17, 1953.
- "Writers Guild of America, USA: Awards for 1954". IMDb. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
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