Musical Monday: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

gentleman prefer blondesThis week’s musical:
Gentleman Prefer Blondes – Musical #208

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Howard Hawks

Starring:
Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid, Tommy Noonan, George Winslow, Marcel Dalio, Taylor Holmes, Norma Varden, Harry Carey Jr. (uncredited), George Chakiris (uncredited), Robert Fuller (uncredited), Matt Mattox (uncredited), Julie Newmar (uncredited)

Plot:
Lorelei Lee (Monroe) is engaged to a wealthy man (Noonan), whose father disapproves; believing she’s a gold digger. Lorelei and her friend Dorothy Shaw (Russell) travel to Paris, followed by a private detective (Reid), who is watching Lorelei on behalf of her fiancé. Along the way, they look for wealthy men and love.

Trivia:
• Based on the novel by Anita Loos, “Gentleman Prefer Blondes.”
• 20th Century Fox bought the story for Betty Grable in the role of Lorelei. However, after the success of NIAGARA (1953), Marilyn Monroe was cast instead due to costs. Grable was paid $150,000 per picture and Monroe was paid $18,000 per picture.
• It was an accident when Jane Russell falls in the pool during “Anyone Here for Love?” Though it was reshot, director Howard Hawks liked how it played in rushes and kept this version in the film.
• Jane Russell gets top billing because she was the bigger star at the time
• Choreography by Jack Cole, and Gwen Verdon served as dance assistant to Jack Cole.
• Harry Carey Jr. can be seen in an uncredited role as one of the Olympic team members as Russell and Monroe are getting on the boat.
• Madonna paid homage to the “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” number in her “Material Girl” number.

gentlemen prefer blondes5

Highlights:
• The “Anyone Here for Love” number with Olympic swimmers.

Notable Songs:
• “Anyone Here for Love?” performed by Jane Russell
• “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” performed by Marilyn Monroe
• “Bye Bye Baby” performed by Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe
• “A Little Girl from Little Rock” performed by Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe

gentlemen prefer blondes2

My review:
With her legendary status today, it’s amazing to think that Marilyn Monroe wasn’t always a top star. But when she was hired for this week’s Musical Monday, she was the second person considered for the role.

It was 20th Century Fox queen Betty Grable (with her $1 million legs) that was originally considered for the role of Lorelei Lee, the gold-digging dumb blonde in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953).

But after Monroe’s successful role in NIAGARA and that she was a great deal cheaper than Grable ($150,000 per picture vs $18,000 per picture), she was cast in the film and the rest is history.

At the time of filming, it was Jane Russell that was the bigger star. You’ll notice that she receives top billing in their above-the-title credits.

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES is the film that made Marilyn Monroe a star, and you could argue, made her immortal. Even if you’ve never seen this film, you know the “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” number with Monroe’s pink dressed, men in tuxedos with hair greyed at the temples dancing with jewels. And it has been mimicked hundreds of times — most famously by Madonna in her “Material Girl” video.

TCM host Alicia Malone said she felt that after this film, Hollywood tried many times but never recaptured the magic of this film.

The whole bit with the Olympic team on the cruise ship was hilarious to me. I know “Diamonds” is the song that we are all know best, but I think my favorite number is “Anyone Here for Love.” It’s so funny, and what a trooper Jane Russell was when she accidentally was knocked into the pool and continued performing as the cameras rolled.

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953) is not only a fun musical, it’d stand on its own just as a comedy. The whole film is incredibly funny with hilarious lines.

gentleman prefer blondes4

Everyone knows the stories about Marilyn Monroe—her anxieties and difficulties on set. But in a Nov. 16, 2021, interview with Comet Over Hollywood, actor, dancer George Chakiris remembered Monroe has being quiet but focused on her work.

“It gives me such a kick and such pleasure to be able to say, ‘I was one of the guys behind Marilyn Monroe in the ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number,’” Chakiris said. “And by the way, you know when you’re working on something, you concentrate on the work and one of the things in retrospect thinking back that I noticed about her, at least I thought I noticed about her, was she was very quiet …

They save their energy, because they’re concentrating on the work. I’m saying it about her (Monroe), especially, because there are so many pre-conceived opinions about her. I like pointing out what a serious, reflective, devoted performer she was.”

While I had great fun revisiting this film, I have to admit a dark secret: for years I didn’t think I liked this film! I should have given it another chance sooner. The first (and last until recently) time I watched this film was when I was 15 years old. I had just finished reading Anita Loos’s 1926 novel that this film was based on and I adored the book. I’m not sure what I was expecting from the film, but I was disappointed.

With this revisit 18 years later, I went in hoping to see a frothy, colorful musical and it didn’t disappoint. I had a ball with this film viewing experience. The Technicolor, Travilla costumes, the songs, the hilarious lines — what a treat. Both Lorelei and Dorothy Shaw are such fun characters, especially since they are opposites. Dorothy is much more no nonsense, jaded and wise compared to her pal, Lorelei.

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but so are films like this.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Musical Monday: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

  1. MM was only early $18,000 per picture at the time she shot this movie? I’m gobsmacked! Maybe in a way it’s a good thing in the long run. She got the role because she was cheap, she made it her own, and hit big after that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I still have yet to see this movie from start to finish. I’ve seen enough bits and pieces to have seen most of it, but I look forward to seeing it as it should be seen. I’m still enthralled by the Diamonds number, and I love knowing that Jane Russell getting knocked into the pool was an accident. Funny story — my daughter used a quote from this film on a TikTok she did recently — I loved telling her that it was Marilyn Monroe from this movie, and I look forward to sharing it with her!

    Liked by 1 person

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