Film criticism by Ian Kay.

Review: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), dir. Howard Hawks

Synopsis from IMDB: “Lorelei and Dorothy are just “Two Little Girls from Little Rock”, lounge singers on a transatlantic cruise, working their way to Paris, and enjoying the company of any eligible men they might meet along the way, even though “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Based on the Broadway musical based on the novel.”

It is nearly impossible to dislike a movie that is so easy on the mind (and the eyes)  that it practically floats by like a common butterfly, pretty but only vaguely memorable.

Howard Hawks made some tough crime movies and some excellent westerns and a handful of other classic comedies and dramas, and somewhere in the mix he decided to turn his camera on Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell and take a break from storytelling. And I can’t say that I blame him, or that it wasn’t successful. Sometimes a movie can be pure entertainment – and in doing so it is often best if the whole effort is kept from going beyond skin deep.

Hawks doesn’t try to send a message; hell, he doesn’t even really seem to care how things end up – as long Monroe and Russell get to keep singing and strutting in any one of the dozen or so outfits they wear in the film.

Monroe and Russell play best friends who are apparently always on the prowl for men. Monroe is a gold-digger, Russell prefers the good-looking ones. One of Monroe’s rich conquests sends the two women off to France with a seemingly endless line of credit, and on the boat over, they get into trouble. Private eyes, stolen tiaras and misunderstandings fly by, all the while giving ample time for every supporting actor and extra to gawk at the two bombshells every time they enter a room.

I will say that, with the exception of the well-known “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, the production of the musical numbers is weak and uninspired. Sex-appeal only works for so long, especially if the women can’t dance. They have fair voices, but rather than dance, they slither and shake – even when the music calls for at least a few real dance steps. The camera is rather static during these parts, and if the women aren’t really dancing and the camera’s not moving, the music doesn’t crackle like it could.

Marilyn Monroe is genuinely funny with her erroneous turns of phrase and darling ignorance. Jane Russell delivery is quite flat  (a little improvement of her comedic timing would have made the duo quite something).

Anyhow, the lightness of the directorial touch and the charisma of the women gives the movie plenty of life and energy. Take it for what it is and it’s a fine piece of fluff.


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