GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES is a delightful musical comedy starring Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei Lee and Jane Russel as Dorothy Shaw.
Lorelei and Dorothy are showgirls from Little Rock who take a luxury ocean liner to Paris, where Lorelei plans to marry rich Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan). They are stalked by private detective Ernie Malone (Elliot Reid), hired by the father of Gus Esmond to make certain Lorelei is not a gold digger. She certainly is. Dorothy tells Lorelei, "You know I think you're the only girl in the world who can stand on stage with a spotlight in her eye and still see a diamond inside a man's pocket."
Gus Esmond: "Dorothy Shaw. I want you to remember you're supposed to be the chaperone on this trip."
Dorothy Shaw: "Now lets get this straight, Gus. The chaperone's job is to see that nobody else has any fun. Nobody chaperone's the chaperone. That's why I'm so right for this job...In bed by nine? That's when life just begins!"
On the ship Dorothy is mostly interested in the American Olympic Team. Lorelei wants her to marry a rich man, and sets her up with Henry Spofford III (George "Foghorn" Winslow), who turns out to be a rich 7 year-old boy. He is precocious and says to Dorothy, "I'm old enough to appreciate a good looking girl when I see one." Later he tells Lorelei, "You've got a lot of animal magnetism."
Lorelei meets Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman and Lady Beekman (Charles Coburn and Norma Varden). Piggy owns diamond mines and Lorelei covets Lady Beekman's diamond tiara. Sir Francis Beekman is very attracted to Lorelei and she is attracted to his wealth. Eventually Piggy gives the tiara to Lorelei and this causes major problems for Lorelei and Dorothy.
(Lorelei is holding Lady Beekman's tiara)
Lorelei Lee: "How do you put it around your neck?"
Dorothy Shaw: "You don't, honey, it goes on your head."
Lorelei Lee: "You must think I was born yesterday."
Dorothy Shaw: "Well, sometimes there's just no other possible explanation."
Lady Beekman: "It's a tiara."
Lorelei Lee: "You do wear it on your head. I just love finding new places to wear diamonds."
(later in Paris)
Lady Beekman: "You'll find I mean business."
Dorothy Shaw: "Oh, really? Then why are you wearing that hat?"
The great songs by Leo Robin and Jule Styne from the Broadway show are: "Two Little Girls From Little Rock", "Bye, Bye Baby", and Marilyn Monroe steals the show with "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend". The only song by Marilyn I like better is "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" in LET'S MAKE LOVE (1960). Later Russel sings "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" while impersonating Monroe in court. Her performance is great, but she does not look attractive in a blonde wig.
Hoagy Carmichael and Harold Adamson wrote songs especially for the film: "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love?" and "When Love Goes Wrong, Nothing Goes Right". Eliot Daniel and Lionel Newman wrote "You're In Love". The soundtrack is mono.
Detective Malone ruins Lorelei's marriage engagement, but everything works out fine when Malone and Dorothy fall in love. Lorelei impresses her future father-in-law with her honourable intentions and intelligence. Marilyn Monroe wrote the line: "I can be smart when it's important, but most men don't like it."
Esmond Sr.: "Have you got the nerve to tell me you don't want to marry my son for his money?"
Lorelei: "It's true."
Esmond Sr.: "Then what do you want to marry him for?"
Lorelei: "I want to marry him for your money."
Esmond Sr.: "Say, they told me you were stupid." You certainly don't seem stupid to me."
Lorelei: "I can be smart when I need to be... 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?"
The film ends with the double marriage of Lorelei to Gus, and Dorothy to Ernie Malone. As they walk down the aisle, Dorothy whispers to Lorelei: "Remember, honey, on your wedding day it's alright to say Yes."
Also in the cast are: Taylor Holmes (Mr. Esmond Sr.), Howard Wedell (Watson), Macel Dalio (Magistrate), Steven Geray (Hotel Manager), Henri Letondal (Grotier), Leo Mostovoy (Ship Captain), Alex Frazer (Pritchard), George Davis (Pierre), Harry Carey Jr. (Sims), Ray Montgomery (Peters), Robert Nichols (Evans), James R. Young (Randall), William Cabanne (Winslow), Rolfe Sedan (Francois), Harry Seymour (Louie), and many others. Charles Lederer wrote the screenplay based on the play by Joseph Fields and Anita Loos. Howard Hawks directed.
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES is an intelligent movie filled with funny gags, silly shenanigans, glamorous costumes, and well staged choreography. The first half is better than the last half. Russel is warm and secure, with down-to-earth razor sharp wit and a better singing voice than Monroe. It's a study in contrasts with the child-like Monroe, who was paid much less than Russel for her work.
I never liked the anachronistic fortune hunter premise of the movie, but film scholars consider GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES as "feminist" and ahead of its time by exploring women's powerlessness in society in a sharp social satire. The wonderful friendship between Lorelei and Dorothy is heart-warming. They were real friends off camera. Russel called Monroe "Blondie" and was the only person who could persuade her to come out of her dressing room onto the movie set.