Marilyn, Billy and the Fabulous Fifties

As part of an ongoing series for The Guardian, Wendy Ide names the 1950s as her favourite decade in film.

“Marilyn Monroe was the blond bombshell of choice – although for a while it looked as though Judy Holliday (Born Yesterday) might be a contender – and became a global icon. Hers was a career that played out almost entirely during the 50s. A supporting role in All About Eve led to a studio contract and a star-making double whammy of Niagara and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Highlights of her decade, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot, saw her teamed with director Billy Wilder …”

And over at Film School Rejects, Will DiGravio argues that the comedy classic, alongside other greats like Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Hawks’ Rio Bravo, makes 1959 the best year in movies.

“Today, it seems as though many know Monroe only for her beauty, not as the greatest comedic actress of all time. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are hilarious in the film as two musicians pretending to be women in order to play with a female band in Florida and escape the Chicago mob after they witness a murder. Yet, their performances pale in comparison to Monroe’s, whose comedic timing and delivery is so effortless it is easy to under-appreciate her brilliance.”

Camila Cabello, Mama June Inspired by Marilyn

After Marilyn featured in a video backdrop for Camila Camello’s Tonight Show appearance in January, the singer has referenced ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ (via Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ video, the ultimate homage) in a performance of her hit single, ‘Havana’, at the iHeartRadio Music Awards last night.

And elsewhere in the world of celebrity, reality TV star Mama June has shown off her recent weight loss with a Marilyn-inspired shoot to promote her new show, Mama June: From Hot to Not.

Oscars 2018: The Shape of Marilyn

Marilyn may never have won an Academy Award, but she is so intrinsic to Hollywood lore that fans can usually find a Monroe reference or two on Oscar night.  This year, a brief glimpse of Marilyn singing ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ in Some Like It Hot was featured in the opening ceremony’s roll-call of all-time greatest movies.

On the red carpet, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan – nominated for her role in the delightful Lady Bird – wore a beautiful pink sheath with spectacular bow, designed for her by Raf Simons, creator-in-chief at Calvin Klein. As some commentators have noted, the dress echoes the famous Travilla gown worn by Marilyn when she sang ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Blade Runner 2049 – which features a cameo appearance by impersonator Suzie Kennedy as a futuristic Monroe clone – won Englishman Roger Deakins this year’s Oscar for Best Cinematography.

And finally, The Shape of Water – in which Marilyn’s long-lost song, ‘How Wrong Can I Be’, is heard in full for the first time – was the night’s big winner. taking home four gongs, including Best Picture and Best Original Score.

‘Blondes’ at Webster University

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is screening this weekend (February 23-25) at Webster University‘s Moore Auditorium in Webster Groves, Missouri. ‘The razor-thin plot is so not the issue here,’ Tom Stockman writes for We Are Movie Geeks. ‘The issue is the performances by the film’s stars that absolutely light up the screen. Monroe, in particular, found the role of a lifetime here as Lorelei Lee, the seemingly dim-witted gold digger with a nose for diamonds and rich men, who has no shame about using her obvious physical assets to get what she wants.’

Marilyn’s ‘Most Expensive’ Dresses

Over at Beam Fashion, Nadja Beschetnikova looks at the stories behind Marilyn’s three ‘most expensive dresses’ (which sold for the highest prices at auction.)

Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend

‘Apart from the two side seams, the dress was folded into shape rather like cardboard. Any other girl would have looked like she was wearing cardboard, but on-screen I swear you would have thought Marilyn had on a pale, thin piece of silk. Her body was so fabulous it still came through’ – Travilla

The Seven Year Itch

Travilla called it ‘that silly little dress’. The dress indeed has a simple sewing pattern with a typical silhouette for a cocktail dress, which was in vogue in the 1950s and 1960s. Although the designer never paid much heed to his creation, it’s now one of the most famous dresses of all time.

Happy Birthday Mr President

Jean Louis had originally designed a version of the dress for Marlene Dietrich. Her live performances always had almost a magical effect to the audience thanks in no small part to her fascinating outfits. This backless flesh-colored gown remains an example to emulate for modern celebrities and pioneered the trend for ‘naked’ dresses.”

Girlfriends Forever: Marilyn and Jane’s Sister Act

Perhaps more than any other of Marilyn’s major films, the critical reputation of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and its subversive gender politics has grown in recent years, making it both a perfect satire of fifties femininity, and a strikingly modern sex comedy. Back in 1953, it was a box office smash though deemed mere Hollywood fluff, as Christina Newland notes in ‘Male Critics, Female Friendships on Film,’ over at the BFI blog.

“Even when beloved male auteurs turned their attention to female friendship, their films were often not spared. When it comes to women, objectification is more common than nuance. In Howard Hawks’ classic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), the gold-digging comedy-musical sees its two showgirls turn men into ineffable fools. But a Time magazine reviewer misses the subtext in order to celebrate what he calls ‘the three-dimensional attractions of its two leading ladies’.”

Meanwhile, in the March issue of the BFI magazine, Sight & Sound (with Greta Gerwig on the cover), Hannah McGill’s article, ‘Sister Act’, takes another look at Blondes alongside other movies featured in next month’s ‘Girlfriends’ season at BFI Southbank (where it’s screening on March 1st, and 11th.)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) with its sugar daddies, its greedy women and its dressing-up games, positions its women as clever and dirty, not pure or mysterious; gives them strength specifically through the fact that they prioritise one another over sexual conquests; and plays on the idea that the absorption of stereotypes about women weakens men. The last thing the male characters expect is for Lorelei and Dorothy to team up and outsmart them, because women who look like them are expected to be both disloyal to each other, and unintelligent. ‘I can be smart when it’s important,’ Lorelei notes, ‘but men don’t like it.'”