Cast & Crew
After curvaceous show girls Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw finish their nightclub act, blonde gold digger Lorelei receives an engagement ring from her beau, wealthy Gus Esmond, Jr., much to the amusement of cynical, brunette Dorothy. Gus's father, who is opposed to the marriage, has prevented Gus from marrying Lorelei in the past, and he again intervenes. Gus had planned to marry Lorelei in Paris, and so sends her and Dorothy ahead on the ocean liner Isle de Paris , cautioning Lorelei to avoid any scandal. As the buxom beauties board the ship, the American men's Olympic team comments that neither would drown if the ship sank. Dorothy, who does not share her chum's preference for rich men, is thrilled by the handsome athletes, while Lorelei searches the passenger list for suitable men to escort Dorothy. Unknown to the women, Gus's father has hired handsome private detective Ernie Malone to spy on Lorelei. Malone develops a crush on Dorothy, and is one of several men who bribe the headwaiter for a seat at Lorelei and Dorothy's dining room table. That afternoon, after Malone engineers a meeting with Dorothy to question her about Lorelei, Lorelei is introduced to Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman, who owns a diamond mine in South Africa. Lorelei is dazzled when Piggy's wife, Lady Beekman, shows off her tiara, for she loves to find new places to wear diamonds. That night, the companion that Lorelei chooses for Dorothy, Henry Spofford III, turns out to be a six-year-old boy. After dinner, Malone tells Lorelei that he "clips coupons," and, mistakenly believing that he is well-off, Lorelei endorses his romance with Dorothy. As the days pass, Dorothy falls for Malone, although she reprimands him for criticizing Lorelei's passion for riches. One afternoon, Dorothy sees Malone taking pictures through the porthole of her and Lorelei's cabin, and after rushing inside, discovers that Lorelei was pretending to be a goat while Piggy, pretending to be a python, was demonstrating how pythons encircle their prey. Deducing that Malone is a detective, Dorothy schemes to retrieve his film. While Dorothy occupies Malone in the bar, Lorelei searches his cabin but cannot find the film. Forced to escape through the porthole, Lorelei gets stuck, but Spofford helps her to wiggle out of her predicament. With the aid of some strong drinks and knockout drops, Dorothy and Lorelei then succeed in getting Malone's clothes and the film. After developing the pictures, Lorelei shows them to Piggy, who is so grateful for her "honesty" that she convinces him to give her Lady Beekman's tiara. After they leave the cabin, Malone is retrieving the tape recorder he had planted when Dorothy catches him. Malone assures Dorothy that his feelings for her are real, but she refuses to forgive him. Upon their arrival in Paris, Dorothy and Lorelei go on a buying spree, and when they try to check into their hotel, they discover that Gus, who has received Malone's damning report, has cancelled their reservations and letter of credit. Left on their own, the women obtain jobs at a local nightclub, and soon after, Gus visits in an attempt to reconcile with Lorelei. Although Lorelei loves Gus, she brushes him off, and outrages him with her tuneful declaration that "diamonds are a girl's best friend." After Lorelei's number, gendarmes arrive to retrieve Lady Beekman's tiara, but the jewelry has been stolen from the women's dressing room. Dorothy, wearing a blonde wig, then impersonates Lorelei in court while her friend tries to wheedle the price of a tiara out of Gus. Meanwhile, Malone, who has come to Paris to meet Esmond, Sr., deduces that Piggy has stolen the tiara and successfully retrieves it. Back at the nightclub, Lorelei convinces Esmond, Sr. that a man being rich is like a woman being pretty, and he finally consents to her marriage to Gus. Dorothy and Malone, who have also resolved their romantic difficulties, join Gus and Lorelei for a double wedding ceremony, and Dorothy advises Lorelei, "Remember, honey, on your wedding day, it's alright to say yes."
Jean De Briac
Harry Carey Jr.
Jean Del Val
Charles De Ravanne
A. Cameron Grant
Richard La Marr
Edward C. Browne
Don M. Rosenstock
Harold E. Coates
Hugh S. Fowler
J. C. Joseff
Sol C. Siegel
Dick A. Smith
E. Clayton Ward
Harry J. Wild
Joseph C. Wright
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Marilyn Monroe has become such a legendary icon, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is such a celebrated part of her filmography, that it's surprising to discover she wasn't the first choice to play Lorelei, the voluptuous gold-digger who never met a diamond she didn't like. Production chief Darryl F. Zanuck had Betty Grable in mind when Twentieth Century-Fox bought movie rights to the eponymous Broadway show, and a large factor in Zanuck's change of heart was Monroe's salary, considerably lower than Grable's when the picture was made in 1953. Then too, Monroe's star was rising and Grable's was on the wane.
Monroe received only $18,000 for her services, and the modest fee may have been justified. Although she was an experienced actress by this time this was her seventeenth credited role and her sixth movie of the year she often arrived late and was frightened of starting work on intimate scenes and musical numbers alike. At rehearsals she usually looked "like she'd just crawled out of bed no makeup, tangled hair, and blue jeans," costar Jane Russell wrote years later. Yet in other ways Monroe gave her all to the project, staying after hours to learn dance numbers and singing all her own songs except the intro to "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." She was a creative contributor, too. When a character tells Lorelei that he'd heard she was dumb, she answers, "I can be smart when it's important, but most men don't like it." This line, added at Monroe's direct suggestion, was "her own sly riposte to the prevailing sexism of the 1950s," Monroe biographer Donald Spoto declares.
Zanuck hired Russell to play Dorothy, the brunette of the picture, as insurance in case Monroe underperformed. This was only Russell's eleventh role since her debut in Howard Hughes's notorious 1943 western The Outlaw, but she was a more even-tempered professional than Monroe; by all accounts she helped director Howard Hawks keep her insecure costar under control, calming her down and repeating Hawks's instructions when Monroe chronically failed to understand or remember them. The hardest work for both Russell and Monroe was the dance numbers, which were directed by choreographer Jack Cole, since Hawks had no interest in them. Cole was an indefatigable artist who "worked dancers to death," Russell wrote in her autobiography, "but...was patience itself" with her and Monroe, even though "we didn't know our left foot from our right."
In all, Russell recalled, "I had a ball on that picture, but I don't think Marilyn did altogether." One reason why Russell had such a ball is that the studio had to borrow her from Hughes's company, where she was still under contract, and the loan-out deal stipulated that her wardrobe, hair, and makeup crew would come along with her, plus cinematographer Harry J. Wild, who earned Monroe's gratitude by not favoring Russell in his shots. Russell was certainly a good sport about the production, as the climax of a big production number shows. A line of men were diving over her head into a swimming pool, and one diver came in too low, knocking her head first into the water, where she surfaced looking like the proverbial drowned rat. The shot was redone a few days later, but the first take was used in the final cut, and Russell applauded the decision.
The tale of Lorelei and Dorothy first appeared in a novella by Anita Loos called The Diary of a Hasty Traveler, which was serialized in Harper's Bazaar in 1925. Later that year Loos published it as a book called Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady, and then she turned it into a play, which ran on Broadway in the 1926-27 season before becoming a Paramount picture in 1928. Loos used the characters again in the novellas Why Not Brunette and But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes not every gent prefers blondes, it appears and teamed with Joseph Fields to adapt the play version as a Broadway musical, which opened in 1949 with Carol Channing and Yvonne Adair in the leads. (A revival in 1995 tanked after two dozen performances.)
Of all the story's versions, the 1953 movie is easily the most popular, thanks in part to Hawks, who enjoyed directing it despite some compromises he had to make. One concerned the film's gaudy Technicolor look, which went completely against his preference for low-key hues, but was unavoidable for this splashy $2 million production. A more serious problem concerned Monroe, whom Hawks found vulgar, dim-witted, and unsexy. He had worked with her in Monkey Business the previous year, so he had some idea of what to expect, but he said later that "there were a lot of times when I was ready to give up the ghost." Still, he appreciated her charisma on the screen, and as Todd McCarthy writes in his Hawks biography, "he played with it and helped make her into a great star in the process." In the end, Hawks considered himself lucky to have directed Monroe before her anxieties grew even more disabling in subsequent years, and his final verdict on her is as accurate as it is unsparing. "There wasn't a real thing about her," he said in the interview book Hawks on Hawks. "Everything was completely unreal....Gentleman Prefer Blondes was the first [picture] where she really went good, and then [Hollywood] had no sense to stick with that."
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes has a lot going for it besides its glamorous female stars. Charles Coburn is excellent as Sir Francis Beekman, an infatuated diamond mogul better known as Piggy, and while Elliott Reid is just adequate as the guy who woos Dorothy, awkward Tommy Noonan is just right as Lorelei's filthy rich fiancé. The bouncy score includes tuneful songs like "Two Little Girls from Little Rock" and "Anyone Here for Love?" as well as the memorable ditty about diamonds and best friends, and the production numbers are as brassy and bold as the Technicolor colors that jazz them up. Reviewers were generally pleased with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the public loved it, buying more than $5 million worth of tickets by the end of 1953, which made it the second-biggest hit of Hawks's career to date. As for the dialogue, I could quote it endlessly, but I'll settle for the screenplay's last line, a marvel of innuendo in a heavily censored era. Dorothy to Lorelei as they walk down the aisle to marry their respective men: "Remember, honey, on your wedding day it's all right to say Yes."
Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Sol C. Siegel
Screenplay: Charles Lederer, based on the musical comedy by Joseph Fields and Anita Loos
Cinematographer: Harry J. Wild
Film Editing: Hugh S. Fowler
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler, Joseph C. Wright
Music: Jule Styne and Leo Robin, with songs by Hoagy Carmichael and Harold Adamson
Choreography: Jack Cole With: Jane Russell (Dorothy Shaw), Marilyn Monroe (Lorelei Lee), Charles Coburn (Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman), Elliott Reid (Ernie Malone), Tommy Noonan (Gus Esmond), George Winslow (Henry Spofford III), Marcel Dalio (Magistrate), Taylor Holmes (Mr. Esmond Sr.), Norma Varden (Lady Beekman), Howard Wendell (Watson), Steven Geray (hotel manager).
by David Sterritt
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
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
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
You'll find I mean business!- Lady Beekman
Oh, really? Then why are you wearing that hat?- Dorothy Shaw
I like a man who can run faster than I can.- Dorothy Shaw
In bed by nine? That's when life just begins!- Dorothy Shaw
The chaperone's job is to see that no one else is having any fun, but nobody chaperones the chaperone. That's why I'm so right for this job.- Dorothy Shaw
Say, suppose the ship hits an iceberg and sinks. Which one of them do you save from drowning?- Olympic Athlete #1
Those girls couldn't drown.- Olympic Athlete #2
Originally bought by Fox as a vehicle for Betty Grable, however, after the success of Niagara (1953) (which featured Marilyn Monroe), however the studio believed they had a more potent and far less expensive sex symbol than Grable (who was earning around $150,000 per picture vs. Monroe's $18,000). Monroe kept insisting on retakes despite approval of takes by the director. When Fox asked director Howard Hawks how production could be sped up he retorted: "three wonderful ideas: Replace Marilyn, rewrite the script and make it shorter, and get a new director."
Monroe wears a gold lame evening dress previously worn by Ginger Rogers in Dreamboat (1952).
In the "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love" sequence, Jane Russell's fall into the pool was an accident. When Hawks saw the dailies, he kept it in the film.
At least one other number was shot, then cut. In the original theatrical trailer, Jane and Marilyn were shown among dancers, climbing the steps of a slide in a children's playground. The song was probably "Sunshine, Sunshine" from the Broadway score, which celebrated a bright day in a park. Marilyn and Jane wear the costumes when Tommy Noonan corners them backstage in the French nightclub.
A song written for Marilyn to sing in this picture, "Down Boy", was rejected, but later sung by Betty Grable in "Three For the Show".
Anita Loos's popular novella depicting the adventures of "Lorelei Lee" and "Dorothy Shaw" first appeared as a serial in Harper's Bazaar (Mar-August 1925) under the title The Diary of a Hasty Traveler. After being published in book form as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady, the material was turned into a dramatic play by Loos and her husband, John Emerson (New York, 27 September 1926). Loos again wrote about her heroines in the novellas Why Not Brunette and But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes.
An August 1951 Daily Variety news item reported that the musical comedy's producers, Herman Levin and Oliver Smith, would "have to scare up a deal for sale of film rights by 17 November or face the prospect" of the rights reverting to Paramount, which had produced a 1928 film based on the Loos novella. Paramount had released the rights in exchange for a percentage of the profits from the sale to another film company, conditional upon the sale taking place within two years of the show's opening. Daily Variety further reported that Columbia had tried to purchase the rights for Judy Holliday, but that she refused the role of Lorelei Lee. After Levin and Smith bought out Paramount's interest in the rights in late August 1951, according to Daily Variety news items, they sold the property to Twentieth Century-Fox in November 1951 for $150,000.
According to a November 23, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, the picture was originally to be produced by George Jessel and directed by Richard Sale, who was to collaborate on the screenplay with his wife, Mary Loos, Anita Loos's niece. Although the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, note that Sale and Mary Loos wrote a screenplay for the film, their work was not included in the finished picture.
September 1952 Hollywood Reporter news items speculated that David Wayne would appear in the picture as Marilyn Monroe's "Little Rock swain," and that songwriter Hoagy Carmichael was being considered "for a piano routine," but neither appear in the released picture. A November 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item included Donna Lee Hickey in the cast, but her appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Studio publicity announced that dancer Gwen Verdon would appear in the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" production number "performing a 'wash-woman dance,' scrubbing 'Lorelei's' diamonds and hanging them out on a line to dry." The "wash-woman dance" does not appear in the number, however, and Verdon was not seen in the viewed print. Modern sources add that Verdon did serve as an assistant to choreographer Jack Cole, however. A January 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Verdon was working with Monroe and Jane Russell on a "can-can number with a 'Three Musketeers' dueling motif," but that number also does not appear in the picture.
Russell was borrowed from Howard Hughes's company, and modern sources note that as part of the loan-out deal, Twentieth Century-Fox was required to borrow cinematographer Harry J. Wild and Russell's makeup, hair and wardrobe personnel. A December 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item and a April 25, 1953 New York Times article indicate that the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" number was shot in CinemaScope for a special trade and press preview showcasing the new wide-screen process. [For more information about CinemaScope, see the entry below for The Robe]. To publicize the film, Monroe and Russell put their handprints and footprints in the forecourt of the famed Grauman's Chinese Theatre on June 26, 1953. In addition to their signatures, the actresses wrote "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" across their adjoining cement squares.
According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the picture received a "B" rating from the Legion of Decency (objectionable in part) and was banned in Yugoslavia, although no reason for the ban was reported in the files. The PCA rejected the original version of the song "A Little Girl from Little Rock," which was sung on Broadway, calling it "a glorification of immorality." The song, with revised lyrics by Ken Darby and Eliot Daniel, was renamed "Two Little Girls from Little Rock" for the film. As noted by several reviews, only three of the many songs written by Jule Styne and Leo Robin for the musical comedy are featured in the screen version.
Modern sources add the following information about the production: When Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the play, studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck intended it as a vehicle for Betty Grable. Zanuck changed his mind in favor of Marilyn Monroe, partially in consideration of Monroe's salary, which was considerably less than Grable's. Monroe earned only $18,000 for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, one of the films with which she is now most closely identified. Monroe sang all of her own songs in the film, with the exception of the brief "No, no, no" introduction to "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," which was sung by Gloria Wood. Modern sources also state that Hawks did not direct the large production numbers, leaving that chore to choreographer Cole. Modern sources also include Jimmy Saung among the dancers in the film. The costume jewelry for the picture was created by J. C. Joseff, the wife and partner of the late Eugene Joseff. Joseff founded the well-known and popular Joseff of Hollywood, considered by jewelry historians as the premier manufacturer of costume jewelry for motion pictures and television. Among the most famous of Joseff's works is a topaz necklace featured in several films, including That Night in Rio and Forever Amber (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50).
Loos's novella had previously been filmed in 1928 by Paramount, in a version directed by Malcolm St. Clair and starring Ruth Taylor and Alice White. In 1954, Twentieth Century-Fox considered protesting the production of Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, which was directed by Richard Sale and starred Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain, as the studio felt that the second film infringed upon their sequel rights to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Sale, who co-wrote the United Artists' 1955 release of "Brunettes" with Mary Loos, changed Anita Loos's source material so that the film did not feature the characters of Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw, and Twentieth Century-Fox did not press its suit.
In 1984, singer Madonna presented an homage to Monroe in her music video for the song "Material Girl," during which she recreated part of the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" production number and wore a replica of Monroe's famed pink dress.
Released in United States Summer July 1953
Released in United States Summer July 1953