Musical Monday: Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955)

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.

This week’s musical:
Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955) – Musical #51


United Artists

Richard Sale

Jane Russell, Jeanne Crain, Scott Brady, Alan Young, Guy Middleton,
Himself: Rudy Vallee

Sisters Bonnie (Russell) and Connie (Crain) are performers with a problem: Bonnie can never say no to a marriage proposal. When the sisters receive an offer to perform in Paris, they head to Europe where they learn that their mothers, Mitzi and Mimi, were performers who took Paris by storm in the 1920s. Rudy Vallee tries to build the girls up to match the fame of their mothers.

• Unofficial sequel to Gentlemen Marry Blondes, and based on the novel “But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes” by Anita Loos, published in 1928. But the story is different than the book to avoid legal problems with 20th Century Fox
• The studio 20th Century Fox considered protesting the production of Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, because they felt that it would infringe upon their rights to make a sequel to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. To avoid this, screenwriters Richard Sale and Mary Loos (niece of author Anita Loos) changed the names of the characters and much of the plot.
• The first film produced by Russ-Field Corp., which was owned by then-husband and wife Jane Russell and Robert Waterfield, and Voyager Films, Inc.
• Jeanne Crain’s singing voice was dubbed by Anita Ellis. Scott Brady’s singing voice was dubbed by Robert Farnon
• In a 1953 Hollywood Reporter article, Dennis Day, David Wayne, Jeanne Crain and Debbie Reynolds were originally set to star.


• Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain in a double role, also playing their mothers.

Notable Songs:
• “You’re Driving Me Crazy” performed by Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain, dubbed by Anita Ellis
• “Have You Met Miss Jones” performed by Rudy Vallee
• “Daddy” performed by Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain, dubbed by Anita Ellis


My review:
After the glittering music and comedy of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, following up with GENTLEMEN MARRY BRUNETTES is disappointing.

To be sure, while the book of the same title is a follow up to “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” this film version isn’t – or couldn’t be by the time it was released. Twentieth Century Fox still had the film rights for both of Anita Loos’s stories, so United Artists had to tap dance around that this wasn’t a sequel to the 1953 film, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. So there are two girls who go to Paris, but they are sisters and the plot is different from the book “But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes.”

In this story, you won’t find Dorothy Shaw and LoreLei Lee, but performing sisters Bonnie and Connie, the daughters of famous entertainers of the 1920s.

Overall, the plot is a bit of a slog and the songs are even worse. GENTLEMEN MARRY BRUNETTES is filled with pop standards that should have worked, such as “My Funny Valentine” and “Ain’t Misbehavin.’” But the arrangements of these songs in this film, are just so dull. “My Funny Valentine” is slowed down and the song seems to last an eternity. And what’s with the African native setting for “Ain’t Misbehavin'” with Alan Young in a gorilla suit and the chorus men in black face and body paint? They made me want to fall asleep. And how many times can you hear “I Want to Be Loved By You”?

The best songs in the film were performed early in the picture—“You’re Driving Me Crazy” performed by Crain (dubbed) and Russell when the film opens, and “Have You Met Miss Jones” performed by Rudy Vallee.

While much of this film is a slog, it does have some cute and fun moments. For starters, I love Russell and Crain playing a dual role as their mother and aunt. It’s especially fun when Jane Russell shows up playing an older version of herself. The flashbacks were cute and fun. I also thought the sequence were the sisters refused to wear risqué French costumes was rather funny.

But the true highlight of this film that makes it watchable is Rudy Vallee. I thought he was charming and quite humorous.

To be sure, this film is visually stunning in Technicolor, and Russell and Crain are great. But the script and the songs miss the mark. Perhaps it would have worked better if 20th Century Fox had made a proper sequel to GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.

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