for this week’s TRIBUNE : ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953 – reissue) [8/10]

Published on: February 25th, 2010

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Director: Howard Hawks

"MEN grow cold as girls grow old / And we all lose our charms in the end" – according to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' most famous number, 'Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend'. But the film itself shows no sign of losing its charm: agreeably silly, this comedy-musical remains riotously enjoyable more than half a century on. And the luminous appeal of its two stars Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe certainly hasn't dipped by a single candela.
   Modelling a series of startling outfits – lovingly captured via intense Technicolor – They dance, sing and show a real flair for comedy (both physical and verbal) as daffy gold-digging showgirl Lorelei Lee (Monroe) and her rather more practical-minded best pal Dorothy Shaw (Russell). After Lorelei gets fortuitously engaged to bumbling millionaire-in-waiting Esmond (Tommy Noonan), she and Dorothy embark on a trans-Atlantic cruise – only to be tailed by a private eye (Elliott Reid) hired by Esmond's disapproving father to uncover dirt on his lad's vivacious intended.
   Dorothy (implausibly) falls head-over-heels for the pipe-smokingly square snoop, just as she and Lorelei are getting themselves mixed up in silly shenanigans involving a titled, buffoonish Brit (Charles Coburn), his snooty wife (Norma Varden), and the latter's priceless tiara. Events spiral further out of control once the ship finally reaches France and our heroines make a bee-line for 'gay Paree'…
   The script – by Charles Lederer, based on the novel of the same name by Anita Loos (and its play adaptation by Fields and Loos) – has an amiably anything-goes feel, with perhaps even a slight screwball atmosphere as the chaos mounts. Though the big set-piece numbers are terrific, elsewhere a couple of the less spectacular musical numbers could perhaps have been profitably pruned. But then again it would be a shame to lose even a single frame of Russell and Monroe on this kind of form, enjoying one of cinema's great female friendships: turns out diamonds aren't a girl's best friend, after all.

Neil Young
15th February 2010
(written for the 24th February edition of Tribune magazine)

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES : [8/10] : USA 1953 : Howard HAWKS : 91m (BBFC).
Seen at Filmhouse cinema, Edinburgh, 25th August 2007 – Edinburgh International Film Festival ( £6.50). {21/28}
original review.