‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ at 65

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was first released in the US on July 15, 1953 – exactly 65 years ago today. In many ways it’s the definitive Marilyn Monroe movie  – although Some Like It Hot is better-known, she truly dominates the screen as Lorelei Lee. Her unforgettable performance of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ inspired Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’, and her comedic partnership with co-star Jane Russell is peerless. For all those reasons (and many more), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  still feels timely and relevant today.

Over at Marilyn Remembered,  Lorraine Nicol celebrates this happy anniversary; and you can read my review of the 2010 big-screen reissue here.

‘Let’s Make Love’, Revisited

Stuart Galbraith IV has reviewed Twilight Time’s Blu-Ray release of Let’s Make Love for DVD Talk.

“Marilyn Monroe’s penultimate (completed) feature, Let’s Make Love (1960) isn’t as good as it might have been but it’s also better than one might have expected.

Two labor strikes, more work on the script by Hal Kanter, and Monroe’s usual personal issues during shooting notwithstanding, the resultant film came out okay. It has many plusses and a few minuses, and Montand’s performance both helps and hurts the film; Gregory Peck would have been a far better choice.

But the picture deviates a lot from the standard 1950s Monroe vehicle, and the script and George Cukor’s direction give it a subtlety and sophistication unusual for musicals of the period. The recently released-on-Blu-ray Les Girls (1957) strains for something similar but fails badly. Let’s Make Love, by comparison, succeeds almost effortlessly, if in small ways.

Monroe, heavier here than any film before or after, is nevertheless very sexy, and far more natural and less affected than in her earlier Fox films. Apparently she wasn’t all that happy with the script that was finally settled upon, but her performance is sweet and charming, even if after all the fuss Clement is still the main character and dominates the screentime, despite her top billing.

Video & Audio

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray, licensed from Fox, presents the film in its original 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio, with 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes approximating the original 4-track magnetic stereo release prints. The image looks pretty good throughout, though some color tweaking seems to have been done, most obvious on the flesh tones of Monroe and others. A limited edition of 3,000 units, this offers optional English subtitles and apparently is region-free.

Extra Features

The limited supplements include a trailer and isolated music track, along with Julie Kirgo’s usual booklet essay.

Parting Thoughts

Good, generally, Let’s Make Love is Recommended.”

Marilyn Takes TCM to the Jungle

US fans, take note: The Asphalt Jungle is on TCM tonight at 5:45 pm (EST.) Over at his 24 Frames blog, John Greco looks back on how the ultimate heist movie broke all the rules of star-making…

“[John] Huston cast the film with an excellent group of actors. For Sterling Hayden, this was his first leading role in a major film. Louis Calhern, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe and Jean Hagen were known entities but lacked marquee strength. Marilyn Monroe was still a starlet in what was essentially her first substantial part in a major film. She was not even Huston’s first choice for the role; he originally wanted Lola Albright. Monroe does not have much screen time as the young plaything to the sleazeball lawyer but she manages to make a big impression with her limited exposure, and she looks great.”

‘Some Like It Hot’ in Montreal

Some Like It Hot is an interesting choice to open the Film Noir Au Canal festival on the banks of the Lachine Canal in Montreal, Quebec. While it’s primarily a comedy, it also contains elements of the classic crime movie. And there’s music too!

Some Like It Hot will be screened at St. Patrick’s Square this Sunday, July 15. Arrive early for a performance by the Ukelele Club of Montreal at 7:30 pm (the ukulele was, of course, Sugar Kane’s instrument), and an introduction by film critic Helen Faradji, with the movie at 9 pm (in the original English, with French subtitles.) Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

A First Review, and Second Take on ‘The Misfits’

‘Blonde Cherry’ by Daniel Fernandez (2018)

The Misfits was first released in the UK in June 1961. This rave review from The Guardian, published on July 10 of that year, hails it as a masterpiece. Interestingly though, the same newspaper had published a more ambivalent review just a month before, and was unduly harsh towards Marilyn (see here.) Perhaps the later article was an attempt to rectify an injustice? In that case, history has proved her admirer right. Neither author is named, but could the second take have been influenced by W.J. Weatherby, the Guardian reporter who befriended Marilyn on the set?

“Occasionally a film arrives which gives the cinema a new dimension … It is not going too far to say that The Misfits is in this class. [It] does not rely on a strong story for its effect but instead wins the audience’s attention through the development and interplay of the characters. The main danger was that the film, left to [Arthur] Miller, would have been too literary, but John Huston has grafted on Miller’s prose visual images which give it a deeper significance. When, for instance, Monroe screams her defiance at the corruption of a commercial civilisation, Huston makes her a black dot on a screen dominated by a Nevada desert.

The individual performances are so good that with a thrill of recognition one sees what acting in the cinema can achieve … Miller’s heroine is so obviously based on his former wife – one half expects the cast to blurt out Marilyn for Roslyn every so often – that her performance is difficult to judge. Yet if she is merely playing herself she does it remarkably well.”

Marilyn Movie Art in Havana

Memory in Pictures: Cuban Film Institute Posters 1960-2017, a new exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts until August 12, includes this poster for a 1970s retrospective of Marilyn’s movies, featuring a still from ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’, her big number from Let’s Make Love, the Havana Times reports.

“Sponsored by the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), visitors will be able to see pieces by designers Nelson Ponce, Giselle Monzon, Michele Miyares Hollands, Raul Valdes, Alejandro Rodriguez Fornes (Alucho), Alberto Nodarse (Tinti), Víctor Junco, Roberto Ramos and Claudio Sotolongo.”

Remembering Barbara Bates

Barbara Bates, ‘All About Eve’

Among the cast of All About Eve (1950), three would die in tragic circumstances: Marilyn, George Sanders, and Barbara Bates, who appears as wannabe actress Phoebe in the final scene. Although her screen time was brief, it amounts to one of the greatest endings in Hollywood history. Interestingly, her part was reportedly considered for Marilyn before she was cast as Miss Caswell. Barbara also appeared in another early Monroe film, Let’s Make It Legal (1951).

Barbara as Phoebe in ‘All About Eve’
Barbara with Marilyn in a publicity shot for ‘Let’s Make It Legal’

Barbara was born in Denver on August 6, 1925, and came to Hollywood in her teens after winning a beauty contest. There she met Cecil Coan, a publicist for United Artists. They were married, and despite Barbara’s extreme shyness, she submitted to his designs to make her a star, appearing in such films as Johnny Belinda, June Bride and Cheaper By the Dozen. Like Marilyn, Barbara alternated between bit parts and posing for cheesecake, but her career didn’t take off as Marilyn’s did.

By the mid-1950s, Barbara’s emotional instability made her increasingly unreliable, and her last screen credit was in a 1962 episode of the British TV series, The Saint. After her husband was diagnosed with cancer, Barbara gave up acting to care for him, but the strain made her depression worse. A year after his death in 1967, Barbara was remarried to a childhood friend in Denver. But sadly this still wasn’t enough to turn her life around, and in early 1969, she was found dead by gas poisoning in a car inside  her mother’s garage.

‘Let’s Make It Legal’ cast photo – Barbara at left, Marilyn at right
Barbara and Marilyn with Macdonald Carey in a scene from the movie