gentlemen-prefer-blondes-dec-17thHawks’ Christmas present to us. “When Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell start any film in tiny costumes laced with jewels claiming to be ‘just two little girls from Little Rock’ you know this is not going to be a deep and meaningful kind of movie … pure unadulterated glamorous fun … and some extremely catchy tunes.” – Nicola Osborne (Edinburgh Univ FS). “The Monroe/Russell sexual stereotypes are used ironically to generate a whole range of erotic gambits: innocence, brashness, temptation, seduction.” – Chris Auty in Time Out. So, Monroe, Russell and irony, too! (Cert U)
Dir: Howard Hawks 89 mins USA 1953

Programme Notes

Thursday December 17th 2009


USA 1953 88 mins Technicolor Cert. U

Based on the Broadway adaptation of Anita Loos’ venerable but unassuming novel (itself compiled from a series of magazine stories written during an ocean voyage), tonight’s movie is a musical comedy/social satire in classic ‘50s Hollywood style. As well as being a brash and glittering entertainment, it features a tight script, Hawks’ usual humanity for his characters and a line-up of sardonic song and dance numbers, the most famous of which has to be ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’. The plot – such as it is – follows fortune hunters Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy (Jane Russell) in their quest to find eligible millionaires aboard a transatlantic cruise liner heading for Europe. The unashamedly cynical theme is wonderfully belied by generous sentiment and the Monroe/Russell sexual stereotypes – of the day – are used ironically to generate a whole range of erotic possibilities, from innocence to precocious brashness, and from temptation to seduction. In contrast to Hawks’ better known and more numerous action/adventure films, the male parts here remain mere foils to the sympathetic sparring of the two female leads.

After the success of Niagara (Henry Hathaway, 1953), which featured Marilyn Monroe in her first starring role, Twentieth Century Fox believed they had, in her, in a more potent (and considerably cheaper!) sex symbol than Betty Grable, as a vehicle for whom the film rights were originally bought. Cast as Lorelei Lee, this was thought by many to be one of Monroe’s best performances (the film was the eleventh of her career) and although having only second billing to Jane Russell, she is quoted as saying, when told she was not to be the star of the film, “Well, whatever I am, I’m still the blonde”. During shooting of the film, she kept on insisting on re-takes, despite Hawks’ approval of what had already been shot and, although it was the only time she and the more experienced Jane Russell worked together, they are said to have got on well, Russell often being the only one who could coax her out of her caravan to start the day’s filming. Asked by Fox studio executives how production of the film could be speeded up, Hawks is said to have retorted “Here’s three wonderful ideas – replace Marilyn, re-write the script to make it shorter and get a new director”. We may be very grateful that, on this occasion, they didn’t heed his advice!

Acknowledgements: Chris Auty, Time Out
Nicola Osborne, Edinburgh Uni. Film Soc.
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide

Dorothy Shaw – Jane Russell
Lorelei Lee – Marilyn Monroe
Sir Francis ‘Piggy’ Beekman – Charles Coburn
Ernie Malone – Elliott Reid
Gus Esmond – Tommy Noonan
Henry Spofford III – George Winslow

Director – Howard Hawks
Producer – Sol C. Siegel
Screenplay – Charles Lederer
Cinematography – Harry J. Wild
Musical Director – Lionel Newman
Songs – Leo Robin, Jule Styne, Hoagy Carmichael


“Brilliant! Razor sharp and very funny”

“Great – they don’t make’em like that anymore!”

“Just fabulous and, to coin a phrase, they don’t make ’em like that anymore!”

“Absolutely fabulous – what a wonderful set of sparklers!”

“Definitely a cut above! Real sparkle!”

“Marilyn and Jane at their best”

“As fresh as when I first saw it in 1955. Very few films [don’t] date and this is one of them!”

“Hilarious! Much better than I expected. Knocked spots off so many modern films. More of a musical than I thought. I can never figure out how much of a good actress Marilyn Monroe was, or how much she played herself.”

“A most enjoyable evening – great fun”

“Enjoyable froth – the costumes were great and the pouting extreme”

“Warm hearted, good fun. Was it Sam Goldwyn [who] said of Jane Russell, ‘I can think of two reasons why she’ll go far in Hollywood’?” [rest of comment indecipherable]

“With a sharp script and some subliminal casting, this is certainly one of the better musicals from this era.”

“What can one say!?”

“Full of deep meaning!”

“One hundred carat hokum!”

“What this film needed was an iceberg!”

“How much more sophisticated entertainment has become!”

“Better than expected – at least it wasn’t a depressing film!”


A:36, B:9, C:4, D:0, E:0 to give 91%