There are several “inside” jokes in “How To Marry A Millionaire.” Among them, the fashion show sequence when Marilyn Monroe’s character, “Pola,” appears in a diamond-encrusted bathing suit and the mistress of the fashion house states that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” a reference to Monroe’s hit film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Pola’s complaint that “men aren’t attentive to girls who wear glasses” is a play on the famous Dorothy Parker quip “men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.”
While “Loco” Betty Grable) is in Maine with “Waldo,” they listen to the radio and she insists that the musician playing is Harry James, who in real life was married to Grable. When “Schatze” (Lauren Bacall) attempts to persuade “J. D.” that she prefers older men, she lists “that guy who was in The African Queen” as one of her crushes. The star of that film, Humphrey Bogart, was married to Bacall.
Other interesting tidbits: Background sequences for the film were shot in New York City and Sun Valley, ID. Fashion designers Charles LeMaire and Travilla received Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design (Color) for their work on How to Marry a Millionaire. The film, which garnered excellent reviews, was a smash hit and grossed approximately $8 million dollars worldwide, a very big deal in the early 1950’s.
An item in an April 1954 issue of Variety states that a New York City resident named Eveyln Paige filed a libel and invasion-of-privacy suit against Twentieth Century-Fox, because of similarities between the character of “Schatze Page” and herself. There is no record of the outcome of the suit.
How to Marry a Millionaire is the tale of three women bound and determined to wed rich men. There’s resourceful Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall), spunky Loco Dempsey (Betty Grable), and ditzy Pola Debevoise (Marilyn Monroe) who rent a luxurious Sutton Place penthouse in New York City from seemingly wealthy Freddie Denmark (David Wayne), who is avoiding the IRS by living in Europe. The women plan to use the apartment as a man trap for millionaires and marry them.
When money grows tight, Schatze pawns some of Freddie’s furniture without his knowledge. To their dismay, as winter approaches, the furnishings continue to be sold off as they have no luck and find themselves in a drafty nearly-empty apartment.
One day, Loco carries groceries home, assisted by Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell). who is very interested in Schatze, but she dismisses him, thinking he is poor. She tries repeatedly to brush him off as she sets her sights on the charming, classy widower J.D. Hanley (William Powell) whose worth is irreproachably large. All the while she’s stalking the older J.D., Tom, who is actually very wealthy, keeps after her. Following every one of their dates, Schatze tells him she never wants to see him again, refusing to marry a poor man again.
Meanwhile, Loco becomes acquainted with a grumpy businessman (Fred Clark). Although he’s married,she agrees to go to his lodge in Maine, mistakenly thinking she’s going to meet a bunch of Elks Club members. When they arrive, Loco is disappointed to find the businessman was hoping to have an affair with her in a dingy lodge instead of the glamorous surroundings she was expecting. Loco attempts to leave but, unfortunately, comes down with the measles and has to stay put until cured.
She is nursed back to health with the help of strapping young Eben (Rory Calhoun), whom she thinks owns most of the surrounding land. She has no trouble transferring her affections to the handsome outdoorsman and they become engaged.Finding out he’s just a forest ranger, a disappointed Loco realizes she loves Eben and is willing to overlook his financial shortcomings.
Meanwhile Pola (Monroe) is being romanced by a phony oil tycoon played by Alexander D’Arcy. Extremely nearsighted, she refuses to wear glasses where men might see her, living by the motto, “Men aren’t attentive to girls who wear glasses.” (a takeoff of Dorothy Parker’s “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”) She falls for the phony tycoon, not knowing he’s really a crooked speculator, agreeing to go away with him.
Luckily, Pola boards the wrong flight at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and winds up on the way to Kansas City having misread the sign for Atlantic City. Sitting next to a man—also wearing glasses—who thinks she’s “quite a strudel, ” she’s encouraged to wear her specs, too.
It turns out that he is the mysterious Freddie Denmark on his way to settle the score with the crooked accountant who got him into all that IRS trouble. He doesn’t have much luck with that but does better with love and he and Pola marry.
As bridesmaids, Loco, and Pola are reunited with Schatze just before her wedding to J.D. When she finds herself unable to go through with it and confesses her love for Tom, he graciously understands and agrees to call off the wedding. Tom just happens to be a wedding guest so the two reconcile and marry, with Schatze still unaware that he’s rich.
How to Marry a Millionaire ends happily with the three couples dining on hamburgers at a greasy spoon. Schatze jokingly asks Eben and Freddie about their financial prospects – which, to no one’s surprise – are slim. When she finally gets around to Tom, he casually admits a net worth of around $200 million and lists an array of holdings, which none of the others appear to take seriously. Calling for the check, Tom casually pulls out an enormous wad of cash and peels off a $1,000 bill, telling the chef to keep the change. At that, the three astonished women faint dead away as Tom and the men raise a toast to their unconscious wives.
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