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Why It's Essential: How to Marry a Millionaire ('53)

The first feature film ever shot in Twentieth Century-Fox's new widescreen process CinemaScope, How to Marry a Millionaire stars Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable as three gorgeous models who hatch a scheme to snare rich husbands in New York City. Pooling their resources to take a year's lease on a stylish Upper East Side penthouse that is well beyond their means, the gold-digging trio set out their mantraps and soon the prey comes running. However, they can't seem to stop falling for ordinary fellows of modest means, which throws a monkey wrench into their plan. In this charming and funny tale starring three of the era's biggest female stars, it's a battle between the head and the heart. Will love or money win out in the end?


Director: Jean Negulesco

Producer: Nunnally Johnson

Writer: Nunnally Johnson

Based on the stage plays The Greeks Had a Word for It by Zoe Akins and Loco by Dale Eunson and Katherine Albert

Cinematography: Joe MacDonald

Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler, Leland Fuller

Set Decoration: Walter M. Scott, Stuart Reiss

Editing: Louis Loeffler

Costumes: Charles Le Maire, Travilla

Music: Alfred Newman

Cast: Betty Grable (Loco Dempsey), Marilyn Monroe (Pola Debevoise), Lauren Bacall (Schatze Page), David Wayne (Freddie Denmark), Rory Calhoun (Eben Salem), Cameron Mitchell (Tom Brookman), Alex D'Arcy (J. Stewart Merrill), Fred Clark (Waldo Brewster), William Powell (J.D. Hanley)

C - 95 min.


How to Marry a Millionaire was the first film ever shot in the new anamorphic CinemaScope process, though Twentieth Century-Fox made it the studio's second CinemaScope release after the opulent Biblical epic The Robe (1953). Being the studio's second big-budget CinemaScope film released, How to Marry a Millionaire proved that the widescreen technology was just as useful for a charming romantic comedy with a small cast as it was for a grand scale serious drama like The Robe. Its enormous success helped usher in the era of widescreen films, which quickly became the standard of the entire industry. It also helped save Fox and the entire film industry from imminent financial disaster now that the cinema was in competition with television.

The huge success of the film helped catapult the already famous Marilyn Monroe into the stratosphere as her star power achieved a level that helped turn her into a genuine cultural phenomenon.

Even though Lauren Bacall was a well-established star when she made How to Marry a Millionaire, she had never before made a comedy. She also had not made a film in three years, and it was important that this film be a hit. It was her first comic role, and the film's success proved that she had comedy chops and subsequently opened doors to new lighter roles for her in the future.

How to Marry a Millionaire was Betty Grable's final film under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox - the studio where she had reigned during her heyday as one of the top box office draws during the World War II years. By the time the 1950s rolled around, Grable's star was finally fading and she knew it. This film was her chance to go out on top with a plum role in a hit film with her head high.

by Andrea Passafiume

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