We recorded the 1953 musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on TCM a while back and watched it last night for the first time. It was more enjoyable than I expected, lit up by an incandescent performance by Marilyn Monroe.
Purely as a story, it’s kind of tawdry. In real life the Charles Coburn character in pursuit of Monroe’s Lorelei would be a combination of pathetic fool and dirty old man. But Coburn portrays him as a sweetly genial bumbler. And Lorelei would be a pure gold digger, after any man young or old, married or not, as long as he’s rich — and generous.
But Marilyn’s frankness and unself-conscious awareness (if there is such a thing) sweep away all scruples. Almost 60 years later, she just fills up the screen — as she does her dresses. It’s really a rich performance. She’s a star, no doubt about it, but a gifted comic actress as well.
The eye-popping Technicolor alone is worth seeing, let alone the ridiculously enjoyable musical numbers. Jane Russell is a surprisingly (to me) effective pal to Lorelei, and pretty funny when she does her Lorelei impersonation. The weakest spot is Elliott Reid as Russell’s love interest. He’s a character actor, not a leading man — much better suited to the kind of annoyingly neurotic nerdy guy he plays in most of his films.
Definitely worth a look.