Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
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Based on a 1949 musical from the 1925 novel by Anita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) is a comedy about two gold-digging dames who sing and dance, go to Paris, get mixed up with millionaires and paupers, and live happily ever after. 20th Century Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck had bought the rights to the stage musical for Betty Grable, but by 1953 Grable was no longer the box office draw that she had been in the 1940s. Meanwhile, contract player Marilyn Monroe had scored in several supporting roles, and had an important featured role in the box office hit Niagara (1953). Monroe was also earning $1250 a week, which meant she would make about $15,000 to $18,000 per film, while Grable, as one of the studio's top stars, earned $150,000 per picture. So Zanuck decided to cast the up-and-coming Monroe in the leading role of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. But he also decided he needed some box office insurance, so at the suggestion of director Howard Hawks, Zanuck borrowed established star Jane Russell from Howard Hughes' RKO Studios to play Lorelei's friend Dorothy. The loanout ended up costing Fox $200,000, top billing for Russell, and the services of Russell's RKO hair, makeup and wardrobe people.
The expense was worth it. The two stars had excellent onscreen chemistry, with Russell's relaxed sensuality and lack of star ego providing an excellent foil to Monroe's wiggly, wide-eyed sex appeal. Off screen, the down-to-earth Russell befriended the terrified and neurotic Monroe, calmed her fears, listened to her troubles, and ran interference with director Hawks. Hawks had worked with Monroe before, in Monkey Business (1952), and had little patience with her insecurity. He had even less patience with Monroe's omnipresent drama coach, Natasha Lytess. After a take, Monroe would look to Lytess for approval, instead of to Hawks. If Lytess shook her head no, Monroe would demand another take, even if Hawks approved. The director kicked Lytess off the set, but Monroe responded by refusing to come out of her dressing room.
Hawks was known as a versatile director, adept with every genre from screwball comedy to westerns to action films. But he freely admitted that he had no interest in directing large-scale musical numbers. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, he turned over responsibility for the musical sequences to legendary choreographer Jack Cole, and his assistant, Gwen Verdon (who would herself become a legendary Broadway musical performer). Besides the opening duet, "Two Little Girls from Little Rock," each star had her own standout musical solo. Russell's "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love" number, with a group of Olympic athletes clad in gold lame bathing trunks, has become a camp classic. In the grand finale of the routine, the Olympians dived over Russell as she sat by a swimming pool. On the first take, one of the divers knocked Russell into the pool. The scene was re-shot, but the take with Russell overboard was the one that was used in the film. Monroe's solo, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" became her iconic signature musical number. She wasn't much of a dancer, so Cole devised movement that gives the appearance of dancing: walking, jumping, gesturing, and being tossed around by tuxedo-clad chorus boys. Monroe, however, did most of her own singing, with the exception of a few high notes at the beginning of the song that were sung by Gloria Wood.
To publicize Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the two stars put their hand and footprints in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater. And the film cemented Monroe's stardom, establishing her as the 1950's ultimate sex symbol. Audiences and critics loved the Monroe-Russell combo. "Singing, dancing, or just staring at diamonds, these girls are irresistible and the musical is a lively as a string of firecrackers on the Fourth of July," raved Otis L. Guernsey, Jr. in the New York Herald Tribune. The public agreed. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was an enormous success, number nine at the box office for the year, and one of the biggest hits Hawks ever had.
Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Sol C. Siegel
Screenplay: Charles Lederer from the musical by Joseph Fields, Herman Levin, Anita Loos, Oliver Smith
Cinematography: Harry J. Wild
Editor: Hugh S. Fowler
Costume Design: Travilla, Charles LeMaire
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler, Joseph C. Wright
Music: Songs by Jule Styne & Leo Robin; Hoagy Carmichael & Harold Adamson; Lionel Newman
Principal Cast: Jane Russell (Dorothy Shaw), Marilyn Monroe (Lorelei Lee), Charles Coburn (Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman), Elliott Reid (Ernie Malone), Tommy Noonan (Gus Esmond, Jr.), George Winslow (Henry Spofford III), Marcel Dalio (Magistrate).
C-91m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri VIEW TCMDb ENTRY