Written by: Charles Lederer
Starring: Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn, Elliot Reed, Tommy Noonan
Opportunities for upward mobility do not appear in the same way for everyone no matter what the most ideal individuals would like to believe. Sometimes you just have to do what it needs to take, even if it involves faking some things in order to achieve it. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes puts the gold in the gold digger term but certainly approaches the story through this being a virtuous act rather than the negative connotation it has received over time.
Performing duo Dorothy (Jane Russell) and Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) have their fair share of male suitors looking to make an honest woman out of them. While Dorothy likes to string them along, Lorelei has agreed to marry a very rich man, but gets put to the test as her fiance’s father seeks to find fault in her and prevent his son from marrying the performer.
With two bright shining stars like Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe, how could a film possibly fail? Especially when they perform to the pedigree in which they do in this entertaining romp. Both complement each other in the best of ways, the snappy humor of Russell works perfectly with the more slight and naive comedy employed by Monroe but the ones being laughed at are the men in the story. This became a combination I never knew I needed and their kinetic energy allows them to elevate a story both mocking misogyny and ogling the good-looking men the film offers through the Olympic team on the ship with them. Jane Russell brings her sarcastic wit to this feature and delivers excellence. Every time she spoke any piece of dialogue it arrived with the intention of making you laugh or gasp and she succeeded on all fronts. A truly wonderful dynamic performance on her part.
Monroe’s character, Lorelei, truly stands out as the character to fully focus on in this feature because she provides much more than meets the eye. Marilyn’s soft voice serves as the perfect knife to cut through the nonsense this woman has to go through to secure her future. She may appear naive to these men but she knows what she needs in order to secure a good life. Working as a performer by singing and dancing, she knows the limit of her earning potential and the longevity of her career, especially in the era of this story. Lorelei knows the best way to set herself up for a comfortable life will arrive with a wedding ring from a wealthy man and the way she operates this story proves she’s the most self-aware individual the narrative has to offer. Monroe sells it so well and proves perfect casting exists, just as she was always much more cunning than her public perception ever gave her credit for.
Working as a musical, this feature does contain some whimsical sequences allowing the two leads to show off their singing and dancing. The highlight remains the sequence where the women dance along the Olympic men’s team surrounding them. Using the elite-level athletic men almost as props felt like quite the reversal of gender roles in musicals, especially of this era. This entire sequence truly stunned me in the way it allowed two women to fully objectify the men around them within a film made in 1953. Much hornier than I ever thought a film of this time would go and allowing it to go all through the eyes of two women makes it all the more special.
Howard Hawks certainly was no stranger to hilarious comedies, particularly those in the screwball category, his fast-flying approach works so well in this feature. He takes the screenplay and continually frames the story around the rightful protagonists, Lorelei and Dorothy. This narrative could have easily fallen to lie more sympathetically with the men of the feature, but Hawks enjoys the idea poking fun at them for not being the noble princes they were meant to be in order to sweep these two women off their feet. The men are either conniving, dishonest, insecure, or obtuse in their demeanors, which makes sense with them being in the presence of women like Lorelei and Dorothy. Many of the musical sequences display the extravagance of the set and the way the shining beacons of the story remain the two women with everything else serving as a strong booster to their success.
With plenty of fun to be had throughout the entire feature through its musical sequences, production design, and excellent lead performances, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes succeeds in all of its endeavors. It feels far more progressive than one would believe in this era in the way it allows its women to thrive in not only their goals but also the desire to be with men in a serious or even casual manner. Incredibly funny in many moments and just an overall delight to experience, this one comes with a big recommendation from me.