1953 - Dir.: Howard Hawkes - 1 hr 29 mins
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th December, 2011
Our main feature was released just a few months before “The Belles of St Trinian’s” but they could hardly be more different. St Trinian’s was shot in black and white in a mere six weeks while Blondes got the full Hollywood Technicolor treatment and took months to get in the can. Such a comparison is no criticism of either - merely an indictor of the state of the film industry in their respective countries not long after a major war.
20th Century Fox originally battled to buy the rights to the story with the intention of using it as a vehicle for Betty Grable. Columbia pushed up the price because they wanted it for Judy Holiday. Grable’s nose was pushed firmly out of joint when Fox finally won the rights… and promptly gave the part to the new kid on the lot. Marilyn Monroe had impressed the producers with her performance in the steamy thriller “Niagara” - so on her 26th birthday in 1952 she got a big part in a big musical and what became her signature tune (Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend). Co-star Jane Russell was an established name and a consummate professional. She’s been credited in keeping the nervously afflicted Monroe on track. She died earlier this year aged 87.
The story used here was serialized in Harper's Bazaar - the diary of flapper Lorelei Lee was a Jazz Age sensation. Lorelei's spelling was as bad as F. Scott Fitzgerald's, and she began every sentence with a conjunction. But, stringing along wealthy courtiers on all-expenses-paid shopping sprees, she showed a foxy intelligence in matters of the heart—unlike her best friend, Dorothy, an unlucky-in-love brunette wiseacre modelled on Anita Loos, the silent-film scenarist who'd invented them both. The stories became a best selling book in 1925 and hit the Times Square Theater's stage in 1926. It was first filmed in 1928 (silent), but it was Carol Channing’s Broadway performance in 1949 which brought Hollywood calling, and resulted in the “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” we see tonight.
Anita Loos was no dumb brunette and she didn’t write about dumb blondes. Her characters were far from dumb - Lorelei may seem to be a stupid gold digger but she got what she wanted - so strike the stupid bit out. Marilyn Monroe, for all her faults, wasn’t dumb either and expressed great reservations about some of the lines in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. “I thought you were dumb,” says Esmond Senior. “I can be smart when it’s important,” Lorelei replies. “But most men don’t like it.” Marilyn herself suggested this piece of dialogue. In fact Lorelei would not work as a character – we wouldn’t like her and she would be unbearably cold and cynical – if it wasn’t for Marilyn’s clever and thoughtful acting and her perfectionism. She often insisted on re-taking scenes even when the director had accepted them… which prompted Howard Hawkes to say “There are three ways to get this picture finished: replace Marilyn, rewrite the script and make it shorter, and get a new director."