‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ at 65

Screen capture by Classic Film (via Flickr)

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.”

500 Year Itch: Shelley Niro’s Mohawk Marilyn

Shelley Niro, a Mohawk visual artist and filmmaker born in Niagara Falls in 1954, is the subject of a current exhibition at the Ryerson Image Center in Toronto until August 5, Blouin Artinfo reports.

“This retrospective includes both seminal projects and never-before-shown photographs, along with some of the artist’s most recent works. A member of the Six Nations Reserve, Bay of Quinte Mohawk, Turtle Clan, Niro combines beadwork designs, archival images, family pictures, videos, and installation to question traditional representations of Indigenous peoples, with a particular focus on womanhood. Challenging stereotypes, Niro’s portraits explore notions of culture and identity with sensitivity and humor.

She is most noted for her photographs using herself and female family members cast in contemporary positions to challenge the stereotypes and cliches of Native American women. Niro explored the oral history of the Iroquois people in general and the diaspora of Mohawk people in particular. She is known for her photography, which often combines portraits of contemporary Native women with traditional Mohawk imagery. She uses herself, friends, and family members as models. Her 1992 photographic series, ‘This Land Is Mime Land’ and ‘500 Year Itch’ employ humorous pop culture references, such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. Niro often works in diptychs and triptychs, using photographic processes such as photo montage, hand tints, and sepia tones.

Shelly Niro is often compared to the artist Cindy Sherman because they both cast themselves in different roles in an attempt to break down various stereotypes. Niro, however never fully disguises herself. ‘She wants the viewer to recognize her within her manifestations.'”

On This Day: Marilyn Leaves the Polyclinic

On July 11, 1961 (fifty-seven years ago today), Marilyn left New York’s Polyclinic Hospital after undergoing gallbladder removal surgery on June 29. The Associated Press reported her as saying she felt wonderful, adding that although she was “almost crushed” by the awaiting crowd, she “appeared to enjoy the commotion.” However, while Marilyn certainly did smile for the cameras, news footage shows her looking delicate and frightened by the frenzied mob surrounding her. She would spend several weeks recovering at home with half-sister Berniece Miracle.

Marilyn and the Hollywood Beach Beauties

Several photos of Marilyn are featured in Hollywood Beach Beauties, a new book from David Wills (author of MM: Metamorphosis and Marilyn in the Flash.) Eagle-eyed fans will know that the back cover photo, as shown above – taken by Laszlo Willinger circa 1951-52 – has been colorized (by Olga Shimina), as other photos from the same session show that Marilyn’s two-piece wasn’t red.

 

In an interview with Stephanie Nolasco for Fox News, David Wills shared his thoughts on the ultimate California girl:

“I don’t know if she thought much about it at the time, because I know later in her career she didn’t want to be associated with that, but it certainly helped her get a lot of attention. You look back as early as 1945 and she was posing in bathing suits.

Then at a certain time, she didn’t want to do that anymore… So for the last 10 years of her life, you rarely saw her posing in bathing suits. Only a few occasions, like the ones taken by Sam Shaw, which are in the book … But professionally at some point, she just stopped.”

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.

Beaton’s Marilyn in the Sotheby Archive

The Sotheby’s blog takes a look at Cecil Beaton’s extraordinary portraits of Marilyn today. The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive is located at the London auction house.

“Cecil Beaton had only one shoot with Marilyn Monroe, which took place at the Ambassador Hotel in New York in February 1956. The actress turned up at his suite 90 minutes late and in his diary Beaton admitted that he was: ‘startled, then disarmed, by her lack of inhibition’.

Marilyn shot to fame playing dumb yet witty blondes in films … Beaton acknowledged that while it was likely ‘press agentry or manufactured illusion’ that had helped her find success, it was ‘her own weird genius that [had] sustained her flight’ .

Prophetically, his diary entry ends, ‘It will probably end in tears’.”