A Few Thoughts On Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

I took a break from my consumption of Prison Break to go through a few movies my Instant Netflix Queue told me were expiring soon and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was on the top of the list because it was expiring soonest, was directed by Howard Hawks, stars Marilyn Monroe and, most importantly, it’s pretty short. I didn’t intend for this to be a full-on review, but it kind of morphed into one as I thought more and more about the movie. So, let’s jump in.

I’m always forget the artificiality involved with romantic comedies from the 1950s. In this case, Monroe’s character has a thing for men with money because she wants to be taken care of while her dancing partner played by Jane Russell likes the handsome fellas. Neither deviate from this path, nor do they seem to fully understand the other’s position. Everything ends exactly how you think it will, but it really is the journey that’s important and this journey involves a cruise liner, the US Olympic team and Paris, so at least there’s something to look at aside from the ladies and the dance numbers. On the other hand, there’s a kind of brutal honesty involved in this story and the portrayal of the characters. Sure, things wind up well for them, but there’s something to be said about people staying steadfast to their desires. Those things don’t just change overnight or thanks to an imagined betrayal of trust. People have a hard time changing and this movie goes along those lines from beginning to end, you just keep looking until someone fills the cut-out you’re looking for. Sometimes that’s forever sometimes it’s for now. Relationships are tricky. Okay enough philosophy. Jane Russell was totally barking up the wrong tree if she thought these dudes would be into her:

They ain’t there for love with you honey, but I bet they have a grand old time together. Speaking of which, George Winslow would have been about 6 or 7 if my math is correct when he played Mr. Henry Spofford III and got to sit between Russell and Monroe. If he wasn’t king of his world by that point, I don’t know what it must take to impress Hollywood kids. He also steals scenes from his counterparts like a master pickpocket picking off tourists in Times Square.

Killing it. Anyway, the most famous part of this movie is Marylin performing “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” which I’ve seen before in various clip shows and copied/parodied/homaged a million times. The number itself was pretty much what I expected. This movie isn’t really jam packed with epic dance numbers. I read that the filmmakers had to teach Monroe to dance less sexy and Russell to spice it up a bit. That really comes through in the performances. Russell’s stiff and seems like she should be playing more straight ahead comedic roles without dancing or striking dark ladies in mystery flicks. I know nothing about her, but she does get to show her comedic and sexy sides, I’m just not sure if the dancing fits. Her impersonating Monroe at the end of the film and doing this number on her own is pretty¬† fantastic. I wish I could dance my way out of my next parking ticket.

Wild(er) and Crazy Flicks

2009-01-10
5:19:22 am

One of my favorite aspects of Xbox’s watch instantly option is that I can go through every movie offered online and add whatever looks even remotely interesting to my queue. Which is a great way to watch flicks by some classic directors. Within 24 hours, Em and I watched two movies by acclaimed director Billy Wilder (check him out if you’ve never heard of him, he’s probably most famous for Sunset Blvd. which is worth your time). I actually didn’t even realize that two movies I had already added were directed by him. I added Seven Year Itch because it’s regarded as a classic and Marilyn Monroe’s in it. Kiss Me, Stupid grabbed my attention because Dean Martin stars.

I’ll start with the movie that was…less good, which is Kiss Me, Stupid. There are two huge problems with this movie. The first is that it’s one of those stories where everyone’s lying to each other to make things easier and the whole time you’re yelling “just tell the truth” at the screen. Of course they never do till the end, because that would be the end of the movie. The other problem is that it’s just kind of creepy as the guy who played My Favorite Martian (and was also on Picket Fences) lets stranded crooner Dino (Dean Martin if you couldn’t figure out) hit on his pretend wife while he’s in the room. It’s even worse that Dino does it! It’s well acted and all that and they even incorporate some of Dean’s actual on stage antics in the movie, but, like I said, there’s just too many things taking me out of the movie. Em and I watched it while we took the Christmas decorations down and were both completely weirded out. Skip this one unless you’re a HUGE Dean Martin, My Favorite Martian, needlessly confusing story or Billy Wilder fan.

Luckily, The Seven Year Itch was awesome. The story follows a pocket book editor as his wife and kid leave New York City to summer somewhere only to head home and find out that the gorgeous Marilyn Monroe is living in the apartment above him. I’ve never seen Marilyn Monroe in anything but pictures (speaking of which, this movie has the famous subway/white dress scene (the the full-on image never appears in the flick). I freaking loved this movie. First off, it showed me a time period/practice I’ve never seen before. I had never heard of wives and kids leaving for the whole summer. Plus, I’m a sucker for anything set in New York City in the past. Next, the acting is fantastic. Marilyn doesn’t just seem like the dityz blonde (though she is both), there’s still some depth there without getting int he way. Also, the male lead Tom Ewell had some experience with the character as he played him in the original stage version. Even the smaller parts are all great. But what I really like about the story (and the basic story is very interesting as Tom tries, at the same time, to both be with and stay away from his neighbor) is that Tom gets to imagine all these different scenarios that we then see on screen. You know, kind of like Scrubs, but it doesn’t make me want to punch someone in the face. I highly recommend this flick.

Now a few general points of interest/thoughts. Just for the record, Wilder wrote and directed both flicks, though he didn’t write the play that Kiss is based on. I was surprised by the large amounts of sexuality and innuendo in both movies. I’m not sure if this was something that Wilder specifically dabled in, or if things were a little but more acceptable back then than we think, but there’s all kinds of sex bubbling around the surfaces (most obviously in the “will he have an affair” plot of Seven Year Itch). I was also surprised to see that Kiss Me came out nine years AFTER Itch (Kiss is from 1964, Itch 1955). First off because Itch is so much better, but also because Kiss is in black and white while Itch is in color. Just some interesting things.

Next up on my Billy Wilder list? Probably The Apartment from 1960 which stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray.