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Entries in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (7)


Soundtracking: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

by Chris Feil

If you want to look to reinforcement of traditional gender roles in the movies, sadly you can look to the history of movie musicals for consistent examples. It’s a genre that consistently returns to tropes and archetypes for its structure, but that just makes it all the more rewarding when there are examples to the contrary. Take Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for example - no seriously, take it and watch it on a loop because it is perfect cinema.

The film gives us two unique musical heroines in Jane Russell’s Dorothy Shaw and Marilyn Monroe’s Lorelei Lee, a team on the stage and in dealing with men. They are two ingenues that subvert genre tropes and traditional images of women looking for love on screen, and you can see how they do so in their solo songs...

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50 days til Oscar. 50 movies with no Oscar love

by Nathaniel R

Oooh we're getting so close! It's just 50 days until Hollywood's High Holy Night and just 10 until we know which films will be competing for which prizes. As this season winnows down to its "winners" it's good to remember that "losers" is a temporary notion. As we've said often and will continue to say: Greatness is its own reward. Oscar has been around for 90 years now and if the past 89 are any indication some movies that are completely ignored come January 23rd when the nominations are announced will be more celebrated by the people of, say, 2049 (if the world survives that long) than by the people of now. Don't believe me? Here are FIFTY randomly chosen movies of large critical or popular or historical reputation and/or devout still vocal fanbases that received ZERO -- that's right zero -- Oscar nominations in their day... 

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Beauty Break: Happy 90th Birthday to the Grauman's Chinese!

One of my favorite places in Hollywood turned 90 years old today. The Grauman's Chinese Theater, which often houses premieres and events, opened on this day in 1927, so its centennial is just ten years away. It's currently known as the TCL Theater and was called the Mann Theater before that but it's still popularly known as Grauman's. You can rename something as perks for modern corporations but sometimes the original name hangs around (as well as it should). Don't even get me started on beautiful Broadway theaters chucking their iconic stage giant names for "American Airlines Theater" or whatnot. DO NOT GET ME STARTED. 

The Grauman's most familiar pop culture aspect is its large collection of cement tiles out front bearing the handprints of movie stars from all eras. So it's time for a Beauty Break. Which of these ceremonies after the jump do you most wish you had been at? 

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Best Shot(s): Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Commence squealing. For what could be more delightful than an evening with two perfect musical comedy performances? It's time to talk Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. The film, currently streaming on Netflix, was the runner up in our Readers Choice polling for Hit Me With Your Best Shot.

20th Century Fox. Released on July 15th, 1953 in New York
Director: Howard Hawks; Cinematographer: Harry J Wild 
Starring: Jane Russell as 'Dorothy', Marilyn Monroe as 'Lorelei', Charles Coburn as 'Piggy', Elliott Reid as 'Malone', Tommy Noonan as 'Esmond Jr'

Howard Hawk's classic was not the first iteration of the story. It was based on the stage musical which itself was based on a book which had already spawned two non-musicals. The 1949 stage musical, a huge hit on Broadway, had introduced Carol Channing to the world. New star Marilyn Monroe got Channing's  star-making "Lorelei" role for the screen. (The same thing would happen to Channing sixteen years later with her other signature role Hello Dolly) But sometimes a movie turns out so spectacularly well that it's impossible to imagine it existing in any other shape than the one it's in, all other versions prior or subsequent feel like faint cultural echoes. 

Best Shots after the jump...

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Top Ten: Strange Golden Globe Musical Snubs

Glenn here with a tuesday top ten on a topic dear to my heart, and Nathaniel's too. We both have a strange fondness for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual Golden Globe Awards. Beyond the gif-ready celebrities-getting-drunk setting and the organisation’s occasional flurries of bonkers brilliance (too many to list), I think I like most of all that their splitting of films between drama and musical/comedy means so many very worthy films get big awards and nominations that they otherwise wouldn’t have. The general rule of thumb is that musicals have a much easier time getting a nomination because there are far fewer of them and, thus, stick out more. Sure, Burlesque, Across the Universe, Nine, and Mamma Mia are recent examples of none too acclaimed musicals landing big time best picture nominations.

Forgotten Awards Trivia: The Globes didn't consider "Dancer in the Dark" a musical (???) and Björk's awards show bird fetish didn't begin with the Oscar swan dress. Note that owl purse!

But what about those that didn’t? There’s more than you’d think!

11 with an Asterisk
Given the somewhat lax definition of “musical” by the HFPA – Ray? Coal Miner’s Daughter? Walk the Line? The Rose? – it’s a surprise that Robert Altman’s classic Nashville and Lars von Trier’s masterpiece Dancer in the Dark weren’t classified as such. The former because, well, it’s also pretty funny, right? The latter because it was a true, honest to god MUSICAL in the tradition sense. Altman’s ode to country garnered a whopping 11 nominations (including multiple for the now defunct “Best Acting Debut” category) and Dancer in the Dark snagged one for Bjork’s performance. Still, it’s about as dramatic as you can possibly get so we’ll let it slide.


10. Xanadu (1980)
Nominated instead: Airplane!, The Coal Miner’s Daughter (won), Fame, The Idolmaker, Melvin & Howard
Oh sure, laugh! Yes, this infamous movie was scorned upon release, but so was Burlesque and they had no trouble nominating that fabulosity twenty years later. Given the universal acclaim for, if nothing else, its soundtrack you’d think it could have at least gotten an original song citation for the title track. No, it’s not great art but who’s ever heard of Taylor Hackford’s The Idolmaker since?

Nine more increasingly acclaimed and tuneful snubbees after the jump

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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - An Appreciation

[Editor's Note: Last winter when Michelle Williams was in theaters cooing as "Marilyn", I had planned on a Marilyn week. It didn't happen but I wanted to share this piece by our once in a blue moon contributor Ester Bloom because I, too, adore this movie. - Nathaniel]

'Say, they told me you were stupid!'

'I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.' "

Marilyn Monroe is not so different from Lorelei Lee, the part she plays in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Both are entertainers from small towns who started out poor but are determined to transcend their origins; both turn themselves into sexy cartoons; both play dumb when necessary; and both perform under alliterative pseudonyms that are as girly as all get out. (Compare the name “Lorelei Lee” with that of her friend “Dorothy Shaw.” The difference tells you almost everything you need to know about their characters.)

Maybe Monroe recognized a kindred spirit in Lorelei Lee...

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Jane Russell (RIP) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 

The cinema just lost two major actresses who I'd spend time writing about if I weren't so sick (I had hoped to shake this flu off in 24 hours damnit.)

The French actress Annie Girardot (1931-2011) has passed away. We last saw her in terrific form in two Michael Haneke pictures as the disturbing mother of Isabelle Huppert in The Piano Teacher and the sharp minded matriarch in Caché (Hidden)... god what a movie that was. Well, both of them actually. You can read some notes on her career at MUBI. Here, Stateside, we lost a giant of the golden age, the sex symbol Jane Russell (1921-2011).  I thought I'd share a previous article I really enjoyed writing on her as one of Hollywood's most beautiful mid-century stars and an underrated comedienne at that. This was originally published last October but if you're new to the site, it's new to you. And if you're not, consider it a classic rerun. It's not like you turn off an episode of Golden Girls if you've seen it before. And Jane Russell sure was a golden girl, though WOMAN might be a better description.

Few movies are as delightful as Howard Hawks' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). It has everything: clever production numbers, great quips, beautiful stars, and a zippy plot. But mostly the film sparkles just by ogling the twin pleasures of Jane Russell & Marilyn Monroe. Russell and Monroe play best friends and musical partners, wisecracking Dorothy Shaw and golddigging Lorelei Lei, respectfully. One of the best sequences plays like an extended joke on the movie itself, riffing on both the musical numbers and the two star personae that director Howard Hawks has so expertly shined up for the audience.

Jane as Jane | Jane as Marilyn

Toward the end of the film, there's a misunderstanding over jewelry that gets Lorelei (Monroe) in hot water. A tiara has reportedly been stolen and everyone thinks Lorelei is the culprit. Well, her eyes do flash at the mention of diamonds. Dorothy (Russell) attempts to buy her friend some time by impersonating her at a court hearing about the absent jewelry.

At first Dorothy isn't sure she's sold the Lorelei illusion. Jane fusses comically at her blonde wig, over selling the Monroeisms for the back row. The next time she's worried that the illusion is breaking she razzles and dazzles the courtroom to utter distraction with a coarser version of the number we just saw the real Lorelei perform "Diamonds Are a Girl Best Friend."

Just when it seems clear that Dorothy's (and therefore Jane's) approximation of Lorelei's (and therefore Marilyn's) 's breathless 'who me?' dumb blonde act has worked its trick, Dorothy's new boyfriend Ernie Malone (Elliot Reid) charges into the courtroom threatening to give the game away. Dorothy as "Lorelei" acts quickly to protect Lorelei and regain control of "Dorothy"'s man.

Your honor before he talks could I explain something?

Well, I have a friend named Dorothy and she's a really good friend. And Dorothy knows that I would never do anything that was really wrong.

It's a real kick to hear Russell comically mimic Monroe's line readings while playing her own romantic story arc.

There's a certain young man that Dorothy likes. In fact, she's very fond of him.

And Dorothy would never speak to this man again if he ever did anything to hurt me, Lorelei. So I think this young man had just better know that...

well... well...

Dorothy thinks she's in love with him!

On this last line reading, Russell amusingly dumps Monroe's naive girliness for her own jaded womanliness. Dorothy's suitor is naturally delighted at this admission of love, even though she's underlined it as comic exasperation. Needless to say Mr. Malone supports Dorothy's courtroom ruse and saves the day.

Jane's faux-Marilyn scene comes shortly after Marilyn's legendary "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" showcase. It's tempting to view this from a modern perspective -- "Diamonds" is the film's great legacy having been referenced countless times in pop culture since -- and assume that any performer would be hard pressed to follow that showstopper and mock it in the very next setpiece. But Jane Russell, a formidable star on her own, doesn't sweat it. In fact, she appears to be having a complete ball. She sure had a pair.

Two Great Stars. One Greater Movie.

The courtroom imposter scene isn't as famous as the musical numbers but it's as priceless as any missing tiara. All things considered it's Russell, top billed, who may be best in show. In the case of this 1953 classic, this gentleman prefers brunettes.