Classic Movie Review: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Marilyn Monroe is the original ‘material girl’ in Howard Hawks’ 1953 film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Dressed in a pink dress, with a big bow at the back, it is in this movie that she sings the iconoclastic number ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.’ Many contemporary stars have tried to emulate her performance: Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Anna Nicole Smith, to name a few.
Set in the 1920s, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, based on a 1949 stage musical, is funny and charming all the way through. Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) and Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) are best friends but polar opposites. Dorothy claims “I like a man who can run faster than I can,” while Lorelei confronted with a tiara exclaims “I just love finding new places to wear diamonds.” Marilyn Monroe excels in the role of the ditzy blonde who is smart enough to turn a situation around to suit her.
The two friends are cabaret dancers and Lorelei has a rich fiancé, Gus Esmond Jr., who sends the girls off to Paris, promising to join them once he gets permission from his disapproving father to marry Lorelei. Unknown to them, the father sends a detective along to spy on Lorelei on the journey – they travel by boat. What ensues is a series of hilarious situations that the girls are constantly trying to get out of, as the detective and the feisty Dorothy predictably fall for each other.
In the meantime, Lorelei is determined to find a rich man for Dorothy who has a way of falling for poor men. On the boat, Lorelei befriends diamond tycoon, Sir Francis Beekman (Charles Coburn) and the young Henry Spofford III (George “Foghorn” Winslow). Though Henry Spofford is very young and has a very small role, it is indeed a memorable role. He delivers extremely funny lines with a straight face and both his appearances are scene-stealers.
There are quite a few memorable scenes in this film including some extravagantly choreographed song-and-dance sequences, typical of that era. The opening act is a hard-to-forget cabaret sequence where we meet the girls from ‘Little Rock.’ Dressed in shimmering red gowns they make a striking pair as they sing and dance to the catchy and amusing number ‘Two Little Girls from Little Rock.’
Despite second billing, Marilyn Monroe steals the show with her lovely looks and her convincing performance as the gold-digging, but practical, Lorelei Lee.
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