On November 4, 1953, one of Marilyn’s most popular movies – How to Marry a Millionaire – opened in Beverly Hills. It was Marilyn’s first big premiere, and she was dazzling that night. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen earlier this year, and you can read my review here. Over at Marilyn Remembered, Lorraine shares some facts about the movie.
Jon W. Chu, director of this summer’s hit comedy Crazy Rich Asians, was influenced by How to Marry a Millionaire, as Christopher Campbell reports for Film School Rejects. (Although Millionaire isn’t a musical, it’s great to see it still inspiring today’s filmmakers.)
“Growing up in America, Chu likely was exposed more to Hollywood musicals than anything that looked like Crazy Rich Asians. In an interview for Birth.Movies.Death, he cites the movie How to Marry a Millionaire (pictured) starring Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and Betty Grable as women who, unlike Rachel in Crazy Rich Asians, are gold diggers trying to snag a wealthy beau. Chu says:
‘I was taking from old musicals like How to Marry a Millionaire – old Hollywood films, and I love the idea that we could have been in those movies, but we weren’t. We had the same style and swag. So to be able to nod to that in our score, our costumes, was really nice…’
While you’re at it, go ahead and watch Marilyn Monroe’s other hit musical from the same year, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She plays a golddigger in that movie, too, and famously sings about her love of diamonds in a musical number that inspired the video for Madonna’s ‘Material Girl,’ which is on the Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack as covered by Sally Yeh.”
In the New York Times, Winnie Hu looks back at the history of the ticker-tape parade car which made a brief appearance in How to Marry a Millionaire.
“It is not built for speed. It burns through gas. And it is too big to park on any street. But none of that matters when it is a 1952 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton.
The open-air car in glossy black with red leather seats is New York City’s official parade car and the grande dame of the 30,000 vehicles in the nation’s largest municipal fleet. It stretches 20 feet from front to back to seat up to eight passengers, and it comes with its very own red-carpet floor. It has only one job: ushering V.I.P.s through blizzards of ticker tape on Broadway.
For more than six decades, its back seat has been filled with a who’s who of world leaders and celebrities … The 1952 Phaeton was one of only three that Chrysler made — part of a tradition of custom-made parade cars that once carried the newsmakers of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s in grand style, all while showing off Chrysler’s latest design in the ultimate bit of product placement. No need to advertise with Queen Elizabeth II, John F. Kennedy, Neil Armstrong and Joe DiMaggio in the car.
The three Phaetons — each in a different color — were owned by the Chrysler Corporation, which based them in New York, Los Angeles and Detroit, and lent them out for processions around the country … The New York car made a cameo in the 1953 film How to Marry a Millionaire, starring Marilyn Monroe.”
“An ungodly amount of kitsch surrounds the suffering and decline of Marilyn Monroe, obscuring how much fun she was to watch. A double bill of 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (July 31-Aug. 12) and How to Marry a Millionaire(July 31-Aug. 5) explains the appeal.
Marry isn’t as magic—it’s a reprise of a frequently filmed script with three Manhattan ladies (Lauren Bacall, a myopic Marilyn, and Betty Grable) trying their luck with various menfolk. But for some reason Monroe excelled in 1920s settings, as in Some Like it Hot.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is based on Anita Loos’ superb comedic novel about Jazz Age siren and showgirl Lorelei Lee (Monroe) boating to Paris with her traveling companion Dorothy (Jane Russell, dark, shrewd and macha, where Marilyn is tentative, breathy and squeaky.)
The effervescent composer Jule Styne gave MM two of her best numbers. Her duet with Russell on ‘Two Little Girls from Little Rock’ is an outrageously bold opener of spangles, tinsel and girl power. ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ is the moment when Marilyn started to captivate the world. Producer and director Howard Hawks told biographer Joseph McBride that he hadn’t been interested in production numbers. Thus this brief 91-minute musical has the sharpness and compact size of great cabaret, highlighting the bright screwball comedy and the hot pink and fire-orange color scheme.”
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, both of which turn 65 this year, will be screened as a double bill on June 5th at the Royal Theatre, NoHo 7, and Playhouse 7 in Los Angeles, as part of the Laemmle Anniversary Classics series. The Royal screening of Blondes will be introduced by Debra Levine, editor of Arts Meme and an expert on choreographer Jack Cole.
How to Marry a Millionaire will be screened at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood at 2:15 pm on Friday, April 27, as part of this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival. Passholders will be seated first, but individual tickets can be purchased (for around $20) on a first-come, first-served basis just prior to the start-time. (And while you’re there, check out Marilyn’s hand and footprints, immortalised in cement outside the theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.)
“Sixty-five years ago, writer-producer Nunnally Johnson dusted off Zoe Akins’ 1930 play The Greeks Had a Word for Itto create a showcase for three of the screen’s biggest stars: Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. The idea of turning a simplistic plot into a talent showcase was nothing new in Hollywood. Samuel Goldwyn had first filmed the play in 1932, with Joan Blondell, Madge Evans and Ina Claire. Remakes followed in 1938 (Three Blind Mice) and 1941 (Moon Over Miami), along with dozens of imitations. In this version—shot in glorious Cinemascope—the three women are fashion models who pool their resources to rent a posh apartment they hope to use to attract marriage proposals from wealthy men. It doesn’t quite turn out that way but it certainly leads to some great comic situations, particularly for Monroe as a near-sighted model who steadfastly refuses to wear her glasses. It’s a surprising revelation as to which woman lands her prey (it’s a shock within the film too), but along the way they mix it up with William Powell, David Wayne, Rory Calhoun and Cameron Mitchell. The film was such a hit that director Jean Negulesco transplanted the story to Rome a year later for Three Coins in the Fountain. “
Stephen Reinhardt, the US appeal court judge known as the ‘liberal lion’, has died aged 87. In an article for the Los Angeles Blade, Jon Reinhardt recalls how Reinhardt cited Marilyn in his historic ruling on gay marriage.
“In 2012, Judge Reinhardt wrote the Ninth Circuit’s politically-savvy opinion in Perry v. Brown, which affirmed the lower court’s decision holding California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The Supreme Court subsequently vacated that appellate decision, holding that the Prop 8’s opponents had no right to appeal the trial court’s ruling, but Judge Reinhardt’s opinion still shines with insight and humanity. He saw that, because California extended all the rights it afforded married couples to same-sex couples who registered as domestic partners, the only point of Prop 8 was to deny same-sex couples the ‘status and dignity’ of marriage.
‘That designation is important,’ he wrote. ‘A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name of registered domestic partnership does not.’ Adding a litany of cultural references to marriage, he quipped, ‘Had Marilyn Monroe’s film been called How to Register a Domestic Partnership with a Millionaire, it would not have conveyed the same meaning as did her famous movie, even though the underlying drama for same-sex couples is no different.’
Because Prop 8 furthered no legitimate government objective and was only an expression of the majority’s view of same-sex relationships as less worthy than their own, it violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equality for all.”
While Marilyn had fraught relationships with many of her directors, one of the few who gained her abiding trust was Jean Negulesco. After guiding her through a brilliant comedic performance in How to Marry a Millionaire, he helped to reshoot scenes from River of No Return and The Seven Year Itch, and was later mooted to replace George Cukor on the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give.
In his 1984 memoir, Things I Did … And Things I Think I Did, the Romanian-born Negulesco revealed a striking pen portrait of Marilyn from 1953 – and before coming to America in the 1930s, he had been an artist in Paris. This still-life painting from 1926 was featured in The Artist Sees Things Differently, on display until April 29 at Princeton University Art Museum, alongside works by Paul Cézanne, Georges Braque and Georgia O’Keeffe.