“Beat for beat, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes just might be the single funniest film I’ve ever covered for this column,” Caroline Siede writes in the latest entry for her ‘When Romance Met Comedy’ series at AV Club.
“So much of what makes the filmwork ultimately comes down to just how fantastic Monroe and Russell are in it, both individually and as a duo. Russell was the bigger star at the time and commanded the higher salary, but this is one of the key films that launched Monroe into the Hollywood stratosphere and established her signature ‘dumb blonde’ persona. I could fill this whole column just listing off the genius comedic scenarios that [Howard] Hawks and [Charles] Lederer dream up, and that Monroe and Russell flawlessly deliver. One of my favorites is a sequence where Lorelei tries to escape a locked room via a porthole window, which becomes a great showcase for Monroe’s pitch-perfect comedic timing and Hawks’ clever eye for physical comedy.
Lorelei’s obsession with diamonds is both a funny comedic runner and the film’s most pointed piece of satirical commentary. As Lorelei sees it, if the world is going to objectify her anyway, she might as well get some financial benefit from it—especially since she’s learned firsthand that diamonds won’t betray her in the way that men so often do.
Like the best satires, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes heightens cultural dynamics to the point where you can’t help but see the absurdity in them. Yet it does so in a way that always gives Lorelei and Dorothy the comedic upper hand, rather than forcing them to be the butt of the joke. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes imagines a world where women are allowed to be as open and unembarrassed about their desires as men—whether that’s Dorothy’s interest in ‘a beautiful hunk o’ man’ or Lorelei’s proclivity for wealthy beaus. They never waiver in their directness about asking for what they want, nor from their loyalty to one another. In the end, they’re rewarded for their ingenuity, not punished for it.
There’s a sort of loosely accepted myth that cultural progress is linear—that of course a movie made in 1953 would be more sexist than a movie made today. Yet once you lock into the satirical tone beneath its surface-level pleasures, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes refutes that idea in nearly every scene. It’s both an old-fashioned romp and a shockingly progressive ode to female independence, sexual agency, and camaraderie. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but—as this romantic comedy sees it—so is the woman who will happily throw on her finest evening wear and upend the patriarchy with you.”
The Seven Year Itch is a perfect summer movie, and over at Bustle, Angelica Florio ranks it fourth among 26 Classic Rom-Coms Streaming Now That Made The Genre What It Is Today.
“There are the classics from your childhood and then there are the classics that invented the rom-com tropes that are still in play today. This Marilyn Monroe movie isn’t necessarily a feminist love story — Monroe’s character is simply called The Girl throughout — but it definitely influenced the genre.”
In her new documentary, Romantic Comedy (which has its US premiere tomorrow at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas), Elizabeth Sankey argues that Marilyn and Doris Day – both blonde and funny, though otherwise very different – dominated the genre in the 1950s, and as she tells Danielle Solzman on the Solzy At The Movies site, Sankey also believes that if Marilyn had lived to complete Something’s Got to Give, she could have transformed the genre forever.
“I think the real ‘wow’ moment for me was that on Marilyn Monroe’s last film she had planned to do a nude scene – she was going to swim naked in a pool to try and entice her husband back into her arms. This would have been groundbreaking and I think potentially could have changed the world of romantic comedies – and their relationship to sex – in an indelible way. But the film was never finished and instead re-made a year later with Doris Day [Move Over Darling] who was not someone who was keen for romantic comedies to contain sex or female characters with sexual agency. And they’ve never really changed since then. It’s bizarre that even in 2019 romantic comedies so rarely have the two leads having sex – most of them end with heady declarations of love before they’ve even kissed! I do wonder if this has influenced the way women are encouraged in society to prioritize love and romance, with their sexual desire being something they’re not ‘supposed’ to be concerned with.”
Some Like It Hot has been named one of the 10 Best Rom-Coms of All Time by Harry Fletcher in London’s Evening Standard. While I’d say this enduring favourite is more akin to screwball farce than a conventional romance, it’s always great to see Marilyn’s movies getting the recognition they deserve.
“It marks one of Monroe’s most beguiling performances and was released just three years before she passed away in 1962. It’s without a doubt one of the best films of the decade and also features the best closing line of all time too.”
Blogger Caroline Colvin takes a closer look at Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in her RomCom of the Week series, arguing that its portrayal of female sexuality is far more progressive than early critics realised.
“When the film first came out, critics berated Lorelei and Dorothy (and by extension, Monroe and Russell) for their sexual confidence. Their forwardness, by modern standards, however, is considered praiseworthy. It’s two sides of the same coin: either the women’s sexiness makes them solely objects for male consumption or their fearless sex appeal is a mark of empowerment, making them subjects, autonomous, active players in their own adult lives.
Are Dorothy and Lorelei villains of female sexuality, preying on and victimizing men? Or are they modern-day heroes for finessing the patriarchal, capitalist framework they’re living in?
Often, the process of unpacking gendered implications in film is like looking for a diamond in the rough. And as seen with with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, sometimes, it takes a little extra sifting.”
Scottish TV and radio presenter Edith Bowman declares her undying love for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in an article about classic romantic comedies for The Sun today.
“From almost the moment people started making romantic comedies, it seems that the roles of female characters in cinema have been passive. One way or another, our heroines do little more than sit at home, like Bridget Jones in her pyjamas, waiting for Mr Right.
Or do they?
Perhaps not. In fact, perhaps it was never really like that at all. Because while conducting research and thinking in more detail about the hundreds of films I’ve watched over the years, I have to say that fewer leading ladies belong to this category than I originally thought.
The first female characters I remember being in awe of were Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Watching those two dominate the movie, completely in control of every situation, is still an eye-opener: here are two stunning women who may appear vulnerable and needy but are obviously very smart, blatantly using their beauty and sex appeal to manipulate every situation for their own benefit.
And that film was released in 1953. Amazing!
So have women in film evolved from blushing eye candy to strong, funny, independent leads in their own right? Sure they have… but perhaps only because of the work put in by the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Diane Keaton and Julia Roberts back in the day – all stars of what appeared to be traditional romcoms, but who brought something else entirely to their films. Without Monroe, perhaps there would be no [Amy] Schumer.”
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes lies under ‘G’ in an A to Z of Romantic Comedy posted by A.V. Club. Interestingly though, it is Marilyn’s onscreen friendship with Jane Russell that gets the plaudits, not their respective squeezes. A female buddy movie and a musical burlesque, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is multi-faceted. While perhaps not quite so raucously funny, I’d argue that How to Marry a Millionaire – which Marilyn starred in directly after Blondes – is another fine example of the classic Hollywood rom-com.
“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes rises merrily into the clouds, a lighter-than-air concoction of whimsy and screwball absurdism. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell give note-perfect performances … Monroe’s naïve gold-digger (and killer performance of ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’) is what sticks with most people, but Howard Hawks’ masterful orchestration of all the narrative wheels—especially Russell’s exasperated efforts to protect her BFF from disaster—is what keeps the film timeless.”