Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
My favorite thing about the title of this movie is that as soon as you start watching, it becomes abundantly clear that no one in the film gives a damn about what gentlemen prefer. It's all about bitches getting stuff done, and it is glorious.
Lorelei and Dorothy are two showgirls who go on a cruise to Europe, orchestrated and paid for by Lorelei's wealthy fiance. But little does she know that there are hired detectives on the boat with them to monitor her behavior, presumably making sure that she doesn't start cheat on him while he's not around. And while I don't agree with his methods, he may have been right to worry, because she starts flirting with pretty much every man in a monocle the second she steps off dry land. There's even a particularly funny moment where she insists upon having the highest ranking man on board sit at her table for dinner -- a man who ends up being rather a small child.
Her greatest success is a somewhat flighty old man who comes complete with a diamond mine and a severe wife who happens to own a tiara. Now, when Lorelei sees this tiara, it becomes like the Holy Grail to her. She just has to have it.
If you're a doddering old fool and Marilyn Monroe asks you for something (a tiara, a pencil, a kidney, whatever) you probably say yes. Which is exactly what he does. Only he wimps out after seeing his wife's reaction, and quickly changes the story from, "I gave away your family heirloom to a beautiful young woman," to, "She stole it." Which is decidedly uncool. It's like, if you're going to have an affair, have an affair, and if you're going to stay faithful, do that, but don't try to play it both ways.
So I'm going to maybe regret plunging into this potentially controversial subject, but...Marilyn Monroe as feminist icon? I love her response to Mr. Old Man when he takes her to court over the "stolen" tiara, when she refuses to return it to make the whole fiasco go away. She's pretty much like, "Look buddy you gave me this fair and square then maligned my character, there's no way in hell I'm giving in without you going through an embarrassing public ordeal." Because as much as people try to blame Lorelei for what happens, there is exactly one person responsible for her having the tiara in the first place, and that is the dirty old married man who thought he could trade jewelry for a little play.
This is beyond a doubt one of my favorite Marilyn Monroe roles -- she gives a playfully self-aware performance, turning her dumb blonde persona on its head in one key scene late in the film.
In a lot of ways, she's a tremendously driven, focused character. She just happens to be devoted her energy and considerable talents to catching a rich man who will provide for her. But in her world, why the hell shouldn't she? By contrast, her best friend (possibly one of the randiest female characters shown in film up to this point and I love it) who isn't concerned about wealth or status and is just looking to have a good time, feels like the strange one.
That's Jane Russell, by the way, and she is hilarious in this film and unfairly overshadowed by Monroe. Her performance of Ain't There Anyone Here for Love is a lot more fun and sexy than Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend, the number that most people remember from this film. Plus, it's sort of refreshing that this one of the few films from this period I can think of where the woman is just walking around singing and hamming it up and all of the men are the ones who are objectified.
Not to mention the fact that her peerless imitation of Miss. Marilyn in the courtroom is an absolute highlight which showcases her abilities as a comedienne.
Despite the fact the gentlemen appear in the title, this film is first and foremost a story of female friendship. Marilyn's fiance is a weak-willed but loving sap who only appears in about two scenes in the entire film. And to be honest, his presence is felt for even less than that. And the relationship between Jane and Ernie is comically unromantic -- they only begrudgingly acknowledge that they have feelings for each other. The point is that throughout the entire film, the story line takes the perspective of two women against the world. All of their actions are consistent with the idea of looking out for each others best interests.
And alright, the music in this film is largely unremarkable, aside from a few standout numbers. But the fact that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is legitimately funny goes a long way in preserving its legacy in film history. I enjoy it because it feels like the two female leads are having fun together, and it's a nice glimpse at a younger, less troubled Marilyn.
When you watch movies like Some Like It Hot, she plays the role that she's given, but it feels like so much work that it loses a little bit of sparkle. But here, she's firing on all cylinders and you can see exactly why she became a huge star. So basically, end of story is that the combined powers of Marilyn at the top of her game and the always razor sharp Jane Russell give this one an edge over a lot of other movies of the same ilk.