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Robert Osborne - November 2011
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Remind Me

Robert Osborne on Battle of the Blondes

One of our primary features this month on TCM is something we're calling "Battle of the Blondes," a chance for all dedicated film watchers to look, observe, enjoy and then decide which of the famous movie blondes you most prefer: Marilyn or Jayne, Ursula or Brigitte, our cover girl Diana (as in Dors) or Grace-who-became-a-Princess (pictured on right), maybe European-born Marlene or New York native Mae. We'll be specifically calling attention to 18 famous movie towheads throughout November -- each and every one a blonde bombshell known to have bewitched and dazzled moviegoers, some because they sizzled like Lana or tantalized like Veronica-with-her-peek-a-boobang, others because they made us laugh as did Judy (as in Holliday) and Carole (as in Lombard).

There are also those blondies who not only possessed an abundance of s.a. but also sang and danced in the process (think: Betty Grable, the most popular female movie star of the World War II years, and Doris Day, the movie's definitive girl next door in the '50s.). Every Monday and Wednesday throughout the month we'll have a spotlight pinned on two of the aforementioned movie blondes or their peers, some in films we'll be showing for the first time on TCM, including Grable's 1940 Down Argentine Way (which includes a defining moment in which she goes from being a likeable but ordinary cutie to a genuine, Grade-A star) and 1943's Sweet Rosie O'Grady; also Jayne Mansfield's 1956 cult favorite The Girl Can't Help It; and Monroe's 1954 There's No Business Like Show Business (the last we'll actually be showing on November 27 as part of a salute not to MM but to her costar in the film, Broadway dynamo Ethel Merman).

On November 16, as part of our Lombard salute, we'll all be proudly showing off a new and upgraded Technicolor print of her classic screwball comedy Nothing Sacred (1937), a film which until now has only been available to us in a grainy, seriously flawed print. It's all going to make for an extremely varied and entertaining month, a mix of film noir and musicals, melodramas and first-cabin comedies from a wide range of decades from the 1930s to the 1980s. Interestingly, the tough part of planning this salute to movie blondes wasn't figuring out which ladies to feature but facing the fact that so many of the great blonde bombshells of the movies weren't really blondes at all. A case in point: Lana Turner. Yes, she became the movies' most famous blonde femme fatale in the 1940s but was born not a blonde, but a brunette. Moviegoers initially saw her with her natural brunette tresses; then for a few years she became a redhead, and was actually nicknamed "Red" in several of her early films, including 1941's Ziegfeld Girl in which those red tresses were subtly lightened into what was dubbed a "golden blonde" hue. The more blonde she became, the more powerful the Turner impact, leading to her becoming a platinum blonde legend with 1946's The Postman Always Rings Twice. Stick with us this month and you'll find that behind every movie blonde there's a great story. And, alas, quite often also a bottle of peroxide.

by Robert Osborne

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