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Friday Film Review: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Gentlemen Prefer BlondesGentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Genre: Hollywood romantic musical
Grade: B

Yes, this one is dated and seems terribly sexist but how can you go wrong with two BFFs who do some fab Parisian shopping then find love. And while at first it looks like nothing else except tight tops and tighter skirts, if you listen to the lines, these two girls from Little Rock are actually quite smart.

Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) are two stage performers and best friends. Lee has snagged a rich fiance, Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan), but his father disapproves. They had planned to sail to Europe on the Ile de France and get married there but with daddy mad at Gus, the plans change. The two women are to sail with Dorothy acting as Lorelei’s chaperone. But Mr. Esmond senior sets a private detective Ernie Malone (Elliott Reid) on Lorelie to see what she does on the journey.

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Lorelie’s irrepressible love of diamonds gets her into trouble as does her incessant matchmaking for Dorothy (looking on the ship’s passenger list for men listed “with valet” doesn’t always work). When the two figure out that the man who’s been wining and dining Dorothy is actually the PI, they use their talents to get the incriminating pictures back. But the damage is done and the two find themselves stranded in Paris with no money. Not to worry – they’ll sing their way out of trouble in a nightclub, and a French court of law, while winning back the two men who love them.

Some of the older bombshell movies haven’t aged well but this one does. Monroe and Russell rarely looked better, especially in the 50s fashions made for fuller figured gals. It’s no wonder that men followed them like lemmings throughout the movie. And there are plenty of opportunities to watch Monroe’s famous “walk.” The whole movie is in vivid Technicolor and is a treat for the eye.

But the film also shows that both women were great comedians though with different styles. Dorothy has a dry wit while Marilyn comes off as ditzy scatterbrain – that is until one listens to her arguments to her future father-in-law for why she wants to marry Gus.

Esmond Sr.: Have you got the nerve to tell me you don’t want to marry my son for his money?
Lorelei Lee: It’s true.
Esmond Sr.: Then what do you want to marry him for?
Lorelei Lee: I want to marry him for YOUR money.
Lorelei Lee: Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?
Mr. Esmond Sr.: Say, they told me you were stupid! You certainly don’t seem stupid to me! Lorelei Lee: I can be smart when I need to be.

These two may play on their looks but they’re just doing what they know the men expect them to do and wrapping those men around their fingers at the same time. And it works for me because these two are never hard edged as they go after what they want. I genuinely believe that Lorelie loves Gus while Malone manages to make it up to Dorothy for what he was hired to do. In this movie the women are strong while their men are actualy fairly weak.

The film is a musical with several wonderful songs including the opener “Two Girls from Little Rock,” “Bye, Bye Baby,” and the iconic “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” I know I can’t think of Monroe without seeing her in that bright pink dress being carried around the stage as diamonds are dangled around her. The script also manages to be sexy while still following the Hollywood Code of the day.

Watch the film for the songs, the clothes, the male beefcake in the guise of the Olympic Team and the intelligent women portrayed by two actresses with remarkable onstage chemistry. It’s fun, it’s glamorous and it always makes me smile.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

20 Comments

  1. Jennifer Armintrout
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 04:34:28

    OMG, I love that movie. I love the scene where they’re trying to get the detective to take his pants off.

  2. Jayne
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 05:59:24

    @Jennifer Armintrout: Oh yes! Love that scene. Another favorite for me is when Lorelei gets stuck trying to squeeze out of the porthole.

  3. Sandy James
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 06:00:19

    Yes, it’s sexist. Yes, it’s dated. But it’s still so much fun! Follow this with “How to Marry a Millionaire” for some anti-feminist entertainment. :)

  4. Jayne
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 06:03:33

    @Sandy James: That’s a good one too. Though I thought Lauren Bacall looked too old for her part. Grable and Monroe are fab. Especially poor Marilyn with her glasses.

  5. ShellBell
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 06:14:13

    This is one of my favourite Marilyn Monroe movies, the other being Some Like It Hot.

  6. Elizabeth L.
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 07:38:12

    This was one of the first “old” movies I ever watched and it remains one of my favorites. We danced to “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” for a recital and my mom thought it would be fun to see the movie. The courtroom scene sticks out in my mind as one of the best moments in the movie.

  7. Liz Fichera
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 08:15:51

    This movie is so classic, it’s the one you like to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a big bowl of buttered popcorn. So many great lines! And, I’m with ShellBell: SOME LIKE IT HOT was another great Monroe flick. Hilarious!

  8. bettie
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 10:48:51

    I’m only so-so on the movie, but I adore the book it’s based on. Blondes was adapted from a 1920s novel the brilliantly funny and subversive screenwriter Anita Loos wrote on a cross-country train trip to make fun of how her pal, famous intellectual H.L. Menken, turned into an idiot around a pretty blonde. The reason Lorelei Lee hails from Little Rock is because Menken loathed the city.

    If you haven’t read Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, or its sequel, But They Marry Brunettes I highly recommend them. Loos also penned the screenplay for the Jean Harlow pre-code gem, The Red-Headed Woman, which showcases the original blonde bombshell’s (and Norma-Jean’s namesake) considerable comedic chops.

    Oh, and I second–third–whatever–the love for Some Like It Hot. It’s one of my all-time faves.

  9. Darlene Marshall
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 11:58:23

    Love these classics, and the reviews. Thanks for bringing up some great memories.

  10. Bev Stephans
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 12:27:12

    What a great movie! Monroe and Russell shine like the diamonds they love.

  11. Jayne
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 18:51:45

    @bettie: I’ve heard the books are good and have them on my TBB list.

  12. Cristiane
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 20:26:33

    I just love Jane Russell in this. Monroe may have the iconic “Diamonds” number, but Russell’s “Ain’t There Anyone Here For Love” number in the ship’s gym with all the uninterested male athletes is killer. It’s too bad they didn’t use more of the original Broadway score – it’s pretty great (and it made Carol Channing a huge Broadway star).

  13. Anon76
    Jul 10, 2010 @ 12:56:42

    Lubs this movie.

    What always fascinates me is how these women (fuller figured) had such tiny waists.

    Is it a constant wearing of girdles? Just the luck of the draw in terms of body type?

    I’m serious. I don’t know any woman fuller figured who has such a tiny waist.

  14. Cristiane
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 18:45:49

    Anon76 – one of the true fifties underpinnings was the waist cincher, or “Merry Widow.” It was exactly what it sounds like – sort of like a corset (whale-boned) but without the lacing or bodice part.

    And, of course, that style of woman’s figure was very popular then – they had that shape to start with.

  15. Jayne
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 06:46:51

    @Cristiane: I agree. A lot is probably their basic shape augmented by the ‘merry widow.’

  16. Julia Rachel Barrett
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 09:42:11

    This is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s my go-to movie when I need to be distracted, when I’m down, when I’m working…I adore M.M. – I loved every single role she played. She was so much more than a dumb blond. You quoted the greatest lines from the movie!

  17. karen wester newton
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 14:30:45

    The book is good, too, but actually rather sad in places. Lorelei had a hard life in a lot of ways, as did, I suspect, Marilyn Monroe herself. And BTW, the brunette got paid a lot more than the blonde for this movie. MM was just starting out and RR was already big box office.

  18. Jayne
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 17:03:02

    @karen wester newton: I read that JR earned a lot more money than MM even though, to me at least, the movie appears to be a launch vehicle for MM’s career.

  19. Emily
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 20:48:02

    @Jayne:

    Russell made around $100,000- $200,000 for the role, while Monroe made around $18,000 total for the movie!

  20. Jayne
    Jul 10, 2013 @ 06:37:14

    @Emily: Wow, I didn’t realize the disparity was that large.

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