Director: Howard Hawks
I had previously never seen a Marilyn Monroe film before and yet due to her iconic status I could name most of them and was very aware of her life. In some ways I wish I had never heard of Marilyn but then I ‘d either have to be much older than I am or have spent most of my life living under a rock. That same iconic status made it difficult to look past Marilyn and see the character, Lorelei.
There is no denying that Monroe is beautiful and talented. She is all doe-eyed innocence while being a master at manipulating the opposite sex. That innocence and naivety are bellied by her every movement from the sway of her hips to her breathy pouty voice. There was an initial interest in Lorelei but I found it was quickly dispelled when it became hard to separate the character from the actor.
“Russell’s persona brings together raunchiness and practicality; Monroe is a potent mixture of slinky eroticism and childlike guilelessness, laced with a hint of savvy manipulation.” (283, Adrian Martin, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) Instead I found Jane Russell‘s character, Dorothy (Lorelei’s best friend), much more interesting to watch. She is a more likable character due to her more forgiving nature. Lorelei is shallow and a bit vapid, only interested in money and status unlike Dorothy who falls in love at the drop of a at regardless of the man’s circumstances.
The majority of the film takes place aboard a trans-atlantic cruise ship which also happens to be transporting the USA Olympic Team, opening up the way for a whole slew of musical numbers utilizing their talents. It also allows for the slightly disturbing scene featuring the athletes in extremely tight, almost nude colored short shorts during one of Dorothy’s numbers. The costumes are just gorgeous and so glamorous!
“Typical of the 1950s, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is an acerbic comedy about gold digging, unafraid to mix sentimental dreams with brittle sarcasm, glamorous magic with a materialist sense of what a girl must do to get by – a set of merry contradictions immortalized in Monroe’s oft-imitated “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend“. (283) There isn’t much of a plot – the film appears more a vehicle for its two stars, Monroe and Russell rather than being narratively driven. Due to the lack of plot the film plods along at a fairly slow pace, interspersed with musical numbers. It only really gains any real momentum in the final 15 minutes or so when Dorothy masquerades as the flighty Lorelei at a court appearance. Watching Russell adopt all the things that made Monroe the pin-up she was during her lifetime and the icon she is now was the most enjoyable bit of the film for me. As Martin says, “the comic highpoint comes when the roles swap for Dorothy’s brash courtroom imitation of Lorelei.” (283)