Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
July 30, 2023 1:59 PM - Subscribe

Showgirls Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw travel to Paris, pursued by a private detective hired by the suspicious father of Lorelei's fiance, as well as a rich, enamored old man and many other doting admirers.

Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) is a beautiful showgirl engaged to be married to the wealthy Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan), much to the disapproval of Gus' rich father, Esmond Sr., who thinks that Lorelei is just after his money. When Lorelei goes on a cruise accompanied only by her best friend, Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell), Esmond Sr. hires Ernie Malone (Elliott Reid), a private detective, to follow her and report any questionable behavior that would disqualify her from the marriage.

Christina Newland: Monroe and Russell’s performances — their comedic timing, their sexy knowingness, and their winking burlesque of femininity — are at the very core of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. There’s verve and wit to their bouncing walks, their sideways exchanged looks, their lipsticked mouths curling into satisfied little grins at the reactions they elicit from silly men. It is one of the few romantic comedies of its era more interested in female friendship than romance, even ending as it does with the classic Hollywood wedding. It is, after all, Dorothy who saves Lorelei by comically impersonating her in a courtroom, blonde wig, breathy voice, and all.

And if the director, Howard Hawks — he of stone-cold, classic studio-era romantic comedies like Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday — had a wonderful ear for comic dialogue and rapid-fire wit, it was his choreographer, Jack Cole, who took on the mantle of directing the musical numbers. They are a masterclass: Of course, there’s the swirling fuchsia pink against the liminal red of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” endlessly paid homage to and parodied by everyone from Madonna to Miss Piggy. But equally tongue-in-cheek and grin-inducing is the proto–Magic Mike number “Ain’t There Anyone Here For Love,” where Jane Russell appraises the men’s Olympic team gym with a sleekly raised brow at all the shirtless beefcakes on show.

Bosley Crowther: Along toward the end, it wholly flounders and sinks dismally into those depths reserved for the wreckage of screenplays that haven't the structure or the steam. But the Misses Monroe and Russell, with their famous charms and airy graces, keep bobbing like chips on a wave.A Casual Script JobCredit their happy survival not so much to the inventions in the script, which was casually scribbled by Charles Lederer from the musical comedy by Joseph Fields and Anita Loos, or to the rambling and random direction of the oddly assigned Howard Hawks. Credit it simply to the well-defined construction and the outgoing natures of the girls, to one or two rampant song numbers and the Technicolor flash of the ladies' clothes.

Samantha Mann: To my pleasant shock, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is wildly feminist, which is extra impressive, seeing as the second wave wouldn’t hit for another seven years. The film is incredibly ahead of its time. The title is misleading; something like Two Broads Abroad or Masters Of Men would be more fitting. My initial hunch was correct: the film is mostly about two women chasing men. But it’s complex and hilarious, and not hilarious at the expense of the film’s two female leads.

Throughout the entire film, the main characters Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy (Jane Russell) display consistent loyalty to one another. There is no back-stabbing, shit-talking, or degrading one another to come out on top or gain the affection of a man. The women remain steadfast in their loyalty to one another, and tolerate no one speaking ill of the other. Providing support and comfort to one another takes priority over finding ways to secure their desired men.

posted by Carillon (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Really good! I think it's a really fun movie in a lot of ways, but also highly depressing if you think about it. It takes great music like the title track, makes it about how essentially for women, economic precarity can be present in every transaction, even love. But I loved the revue "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love". I haven't seen a ton of musicals, but I've seen a lot of women doing what the men are doing here, so awesome how gender swapped it was with all the hot olympic dudes. Just great seeing her walk among the dancers.

That said, doing a little research for the post, Jane Russell was IRL pretty depressing. An actual quote from her "These days, I am a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist."
posted by Carillon at 2:06 PM on July 30, 2023 [4 favorites]

I love this movie. Great female buddy comedy.

I was surprised not to see this in Greta Gerwig's list of inspirations for Barbie, because this is one of the classic "men are an accessory" films. Although for all its good points, Barbie is shockingly light on female friendships - sure, all the Barbies get along and work together, but we don't get any indication that our Stereotypical Barbie has any close friendships. She's a loner; Lorelei and Dorothy are a duo.

I guess our heroines fall in love, but who cares when there's a friendship the caliber of Lorelei and Dorothy's on the line. The pacing doesn't quite work, but who cares when you have costumes and dance numbers and dialogue and women like this to watch.
posted by the primroses were over at 4:46 AM on July 31, 2023 [1 favorite]

I read Jane Russell's bio. She swam through an ocean of shit to entertain people including an abusive marriage, primitive rehabs, and Howard Hughes as a creepy boss. I don't blame someone turning to strict, rules-based lifestyle (that I hate) after that.

The movie is so pretty and colorful and curvy! It blows my mind that this is just 2 decades after the introduction of regular Technicolor. It is sad we've gone backwards in lighting and cinematography since then. Have to rewatch it soon.
posted by Freecola at 12:09 PM on August 1, 2023

People glance at these movies and say “wow, the 50s and their gender roles” but have no idea how much these movies are making fun of the whole heterosexual cisgender gender- binary roles package.
posted by Hypatia at 1:25 PM on August 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

I love this movie. It's so smart and funny, with gorgeous musical bits. Russell and Monroe work so well together! It's really a must -see.
posted by Enid Lareg at 6:50 PM on August 2, 2023

« Older Special Event: 2023 FIFA Women...   |  What We Do in the Shadows: The... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments