Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Released:  1953

Cast:  Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid, Tommy Noonan, Taylor Holmes, Norma Varden, George Winslow

SUMMARY:  Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy (Jane Russell) are best friends, and perform as showgirls together.  Lorelei is determined to land a rich husband, and seems to have accomplished this:  she’s engaged to rich geek Gus Esmond.  Dorothy, however, is more interested in a man’s physical qualities.  Lorelei is planning to travel to France with Gus, where they will get married, but Gus’s father prevents him from going.  Gus tells Lorelei to go to France without him, but to be careful about her behavior – if his father finds out about any issues, he will prevent the marriage.  Both Lorelei and Gus are also unaware that Gus’s father has hired a detective to follow Lorelei on the trip.  Dorothy is to go with Lorelei on the trip, and act as a chaperone.

During the trip, the women quickly meet Ernie Malone (Elliott Reid), the detective following Lorelei; they are unaware of his job, and believe that he is simply besotted with Dorothy (who is more interested in an Olympics team aboard the ship).  Meanwhile, Lorelei begins flirting with rich older man Sir Francis “Piggy” Beekman (Charles Coburn), even though he is married.  When Lorelei invites Piggy to her cabin, Malone is able to take pictures of the two embracing; however, Dorothy sees him doing this, and tells Lorelei.  In order to save Lorelei’s reputation, the two women decide to steal the film.  After they succeed, Piggy gives Lorelei his wife’s tiara in gratitude.  Although she has learned of Malone’s true identity, Dorothy admits that she is starting to fall for him.

After Gus’s father learns of the incident, he cancels Lorelei’s letter of credit; Dorothy and Lorelei are forced to put on shows to earn money.  When Gus shows up at Lorelei and Dorothy’s show, Lorelei turns him away, then performs “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, explaining why she likes rich men.  During this time, Piggy’s wife has discovered that her tiara is missing, and has filed charges against Lorelei.  Lorelei is set to return the tiara, but finds that it is no longer in her possession.  When Malone finds Piggy at the airport, Piggy acts very suspiciously and tries to avoid Malone.  In court, Dorothy poses as Lorelei in an attempt to buy time.  Malone, who is present in the courtroom, realizes what is happening, but chooses only to reveal that Piggy actually has the tiara.  After returning to the nightclub where they are performing, Lorelei is able to convince Gus’s father to let Lorelei marry Gus.  The movie ends with a double wedding between Gus and Lorelei and Dorothy and Malone.

MY TAKE:  I love Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei in this movie.  Lorelei appears to be the typical airhead, but there are a few key moments that reveal that she’s actually very smart, and is working her assets to manipulate men.  It seems like a fairly autobiographical role for Marilyn.  Jane Russell’s Dorothy is also great fun to watch, as she is very cynical and sarcastic.  Although they have very different tastes in men, the two women make a great (and hilarious) team.  I think my favorite scene is when Dorothy pretends to be Lorelei in court – she actually does a fairly good impression of Lorelei’s mannerisms, but there’s enough of her true personality peeking through to make it really amusing.

The most famous part of this movie is the “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” number.  Obviously, the song has remained very popular, as it has been performed by lots of different singers, and included in many other TV shows and movies (Moulin Rouge!, Burlesque, Glee and Gossip Girl, to name a few).  However, the most well-known reference to this song is Madonna’s video for “Material Girl”, which is a blatant spoof of the film number – Madonna essentially redoes the scene, while singing “Material Girl” instead of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”.  This has become so famous that the Glee performance was actually a mash-up of the two songs.  Marilyn sang most of the song, but was dubbed in a few key spots by Marni Nixon, who seems to have sung every important movie role except for those performed by Julie Andrews and Shirley Jones.  Marni was actually one of the nuns in The Sound of Music, and she was the singing voice in The King and I, West Side Story, My Fair Lady and An Affair to Remember.

RATING:  The combination of acerbic Dorothy and (seemingly) naïve Lorelei is hilarious, and the music is great, too.

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