Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Romance, Comedy, Musical | 91 mins | Released: 1953
Director: Howard Hawks
Starring: Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn, Elliot Reid, Tommy Noonan, Geroge Winslow, Marcel Dalio
Our Rating: 8
In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) are showgirls and best friends. Lorelei has a passion for diamonds, knowing that attracting a rich husband is one of the few ways a woman of the 1950s can succeed economically. She is engaged to Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan), a naive nerd willing to do or buy anything for her. However, Gus is under the control of his wealthy, upper-class father. Dorothy, on the other hand, is looking for a different kind of love, attracted only to men who are good-looking and fit.
Lorelei has planned to wed Gus in France, but Esmond, Sr. stops his son from sailing, believing that Lorelei is bad for him. Although Lorelei’s job requires that she travels to France with or without Gus, before she leaves, Gus gives her a letter of credit to cover expenses upon her arrival, and promises to later meet her in France. However, he also warns her to behave, noting that his father will prohibit their marriage if rumors of misdeeds make their way to Esmond, Sr. Unbeknownst to both of them, Esmond, Sr. has hired a private detective, Ernie Malone (Elliott Reid), to spy on Lorelei.
During the Atlantic crossing, Malone immediately falls in love with Dorothy, but Dorothy has already been drawn to the members of the Olympic athletics team. Lorelei meets the rich and foolish Sir Francis “Piggy” Beekman (Charles Coburn), the owner of a diamond mine and is attracted by his wealth; although Piggy is married, Lorelei naively returns his geriatric flirtations, which annoys his wife, Lady Beekman (Norma Varden).
Lorelei invites Piggy to the cabin she shares with Dorothy, whereupon he recounts his travels to Africa. While Piggy demonstrates how a python squeezes a goat by hugging Lorelei, Malone spies through the window and takes pictures of the two, but is caught by Dorothy as he walks away nonchalantly. She tells Lorelei, who fears for her reputation. They come up with a scheme to intoxicate Malone and then search him to recover the incriminating film while he is unconscious. They find the film in his pants, then Lorelei promptly prints and hides the negatives. Revealing her success to Piggy, she persuades him to give her Lady Beekman’s tiara as a thank you gift. However, Malone reveals he had planted a recording device in Lorelei’s cabin, and has heard her discussion with Piggy about the pictures and the tiara. Malone implies Lorelei is a golddigger and, when Dorothy scolds him for his actions, admits that he himself is a liar. However, Dorothy reveals to Lorelei she is falling for Malone, after which Lorelei chastises her for choosing a poor man when she could easily have a rich man.
The ship arrives in France, and Lorelei and Dorothy spend time shopping. However, the pair are then kicked out of their hotel and discover Lorelei’s letter of credit has been cancelled due to the information Malone shared with Esmond, Sr. When Gus shows up at their show, Lorelei rebuffs him, after which she performs Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, the musical number whose lyrics explain why and how women need to pursue men with money. Meanwhile, Lady Beekman has filed charges regarding her missing tiara, and Lorelei is charged with theft. Dorothy persuades Lorelei to return the tiara, but the pair discover it is missing from her jewelry box. Piggy tries to weasel out of his part in the affair when Malone catches him at the airport.
Dorothy stalls for time in court by pretending to be Lorelei, disguised in a blonde wig and mimicking her friend’s breathy voice and mannerisms. When Malone appears in court and is about to unmask “Lorelei” as Dorothy, she reveals to Malone in covert language that she, Dorothy, loves him but would never forgive him if he were to do anything to hurt her best friend, Lorelei. Malone withdraws his comments, but then reveals Piggy has the tiara, exonerating Lorelei.
Back at the nightclub, Lorelei impresses Esmond, Sr. with a speech on the subject of patriarchal money, and also makes an argument that if Esmond, Sr. had a daughter instead of a son, he would want the best for her, to which he agrees and consents to his son’s marriage to Lorelei. The film closes with a double wedding for both Lorelei and Dorothy, who marry Esmond and Malone, respectively.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a 1953 American film adaptation of the 1949 stage musical, released by 20th Century Fox, directed by Howard Hawks, and starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, with Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid, Tommy Noonan, George Winslow, Taylor Holmes, and Norma Varden in supporting roles.
The screenplay for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, by Charles Lederer, was based on the 1949 Broadway musical of the same name, directed John C. Wilson, with Carol Channing as Lorelei Lee, which was written by Anita Loos and Joseph Fields. The stage musical was based on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Intimate Diary of a Professional Lady, a 1925 novel by Anita Loos. It was adapted for the stage in 1926, and then a 1928 silent movie, starring Ruth Taylor, Alice White, Ford Sterling, and Mack Swain, which is now lost.
While Russell’s down-to-earth, sharp wit has been noted by most critics, it is Monroe’s turn as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee for which the film is often remembered. Monroe’s rendition of the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and her pink dress are considered iconic, and the performance has inspired homages by Madonna, Geri Halliwell, Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Anna Nicole Smith, Christina Aguilera, and James Franco.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is filled with comedic gags and musical numbers, choreographed by Jack Cole, whereas the music was written by songwriting teams Hoagy Carmichael & Harold Adamson and Jule Styne & Leo Robin. The songs by Styne and Robin are from the Broadway show, while the songs by Carmichael and Adamson were written especially for the film.
Notable Quotes:from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes:
Lorelei Lee: Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?
Dorothy Shaw: I like a man who can run faster than I can.
Lorelei Lee: There was an old man named Sidney… Who drank till he ruined a kidney. It shriveled and shrank, but he drank and he drank… He had his fun doing it, didn’t he?
Dorothy Shaw: You know I think you’re the only girl in the world who can stand on a stage with a spotlight in her eye and still see a diamond inside a man’s pocket.
Lorelei Lee: [singing] A kiss on the hand may be quite continental, / But diamonds are a girl’s best friend. / A kiss may be grand, but it won’t pay the rental on your humble flat. / Or help you at the automat. / Men grow cold as girls grow old, and we all lose our charm in the end. / But square-cut or pear-shaped, these rocks won’t lost their shape. / Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.
Dorothy Shaw: Well, I don’t know about you Gus, but I always figured Lorelei would end up with the Secretary of the Treasury.