Florida Theatre Classics: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

July 15, 2012 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

This weekend, the Florida Theatre continues its summer Classic Films Series with a huge screen showing of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell titillate in this sizzling 50s era classic. Join us after the jump for details!

The Film Series (for reader, G. M. especially) shows on Sunday afternoons. Film starts at 2pm.
Ticket Prices: $7.50 (Single Admission); $45 (Movie Card for 10 Admissions – Save $30!)
1953, 91 Minutes, Color

Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Charles Coburn

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a 1953 film adaptation of the 1949 stage musical, released by 20th Century Fox, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, with Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid, Tommy Noonan, Taylor Holmes, and Norma Varden in supporting roles. The screenplay by Charles Lederer is augmented by the music of songwriting teams Hoagy Carmichael & Harold Adamson and Jule Styne & Leo Robin. The songs by Styne and Robin are from the Broadway show, while the songs by Carmichael and Adamson were written especially for the film.

The movie is filled with comedic gags and musical numbers. While Russell's down-to-earth, sharp wit has been noted by most critics, it is Monroe's turn as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee for which the film is often remembered. Monroe's rendition of the song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" and her pink dress are considered iconic, and the dress has been copied by Madonna, Geri Halliwell, Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Anna Nicole Smith, Christina Aguilera, and James Franco.  (see bonus videos at the bottom)

The story line first appeared in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady, a 1925 novel by Anita Loos. It was adapted for the stage in 1926, and then a 1928 silent movie, starring Ruth Taylor, Alice White, Ford Sterling, and Mack Swain, which is now lost. John C. Wilson directed the Broadway musical with Carol Channing as Lorelei Lee that served as the basis for this screen version.

Loos wrote a sequel to her novel entitled But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, with further adventures of Lorelei and Dorothy. The 1955 Gentlemen Marry Brunettes used only the book's name and starred Russell and Jeanne Crain playing characters who were the daughters of Dorothy Shaw.

Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) are showgirls and best friends. Lorelei is engaged to Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan), who is willing to do anything and buy anything for her. His father does not approve of her, thinking she is just after his son's money. Lorelei and Gus are planning to sail to France and get married, but Esmond Sr. stops his son from going, noting that Lorelei is bad for him. Lorelei is discouraged since Gus isn't going, but goes anyway with Dorothy. Gus warns Lorelei that she has to behave because if his father hears of bad behavior, they will never be allowed to marry. Unbeknownst to either of them, Esmond Sr. has hired a private detective, Ernie Malone (Elliott Reid), to spy on Lorelei. While checking up on Lorelei, he incidentally falls in love with Dorothy. Lorelei meets Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman (Charles Coburn) who owns a diamond mine, which attracts her deeply. She uses her intense charm to entice him, annoying his wife.

Lorelei invites him over to the ship cabin she occupies with Dorothy, and Piggy tells Lorelei about his travels to Africa. Unknown to them, Malone is spying through the window and takes pictures of them flirting. Dorothy, going to her cabin to get dried off, sees Malone walking away nonchalantly after taking pictures of Lorelei and Piggy. She tells Lorelei, who is frightened that Gus and his father will find out and call off the marriage, and they then come up with a scheme to get the film. They invite him to their cabin for drinks and turn the heat up (which would make him take off his coat, where they would be able to get the film if it were in that). Lorelei mixes him a strong drink and puts sleeping pills in it, which makes him even warmer and lightheaded. Taking off his coat and finding nothing, they proceed to take off his trousers as the film must be there - which it is, and Lorelei promptly prints the negatives to hide away. Piggy is relieved that his wife won't see the pictures, worried about her jealousy. Lorelei, feeling a little let-down that she doesn't get a reward, persuades Piggy to give her his wife's diamond tiara as a thank-you present. While they get the tiara, Malone enters the cabin revealing that he had been audiotaping them. Dorothy enters the cabin, scolding Malone for his actions. Lorelei comes back with the tiara, and is told by Dorothy that she is falling in love with Malone, although she doesn't like him a bit. They dock in France and leave promptly in a taxi. While in Paris, the women spend all the money they have shopping for clothes. When they arrive at the hotel, they find out that Lady Beekman (Norma Varden) didn't give up the tiara willingly, and doesn't know anything about it. Considering Lorelei a thief, Gus has stopped her line of credit.

Without money or a place to live, Lorelei and Dorothy get jobs as nightclub singers. Piggy somehow steals back the tiara, hoping to rid himself of everything from the past. When the police come after Lorelei, she is persuaded by Dorothy to return the tiara, but finds it missing from her jewelry box. Gus has come to see the show and Dorothy tells Lorelei that she has to get the money for the tiara from him. In the meantime, she allows the police to arrest her saying that she is Lorelei, cleverly disguised with a wig and fake beauty mark. At the court, Dorothy tries to stall for time so Lorelei and Gus can come with a new tiara, and claim that it is the one that Piggy had taken from his wife. Dorothy puts on a show in the middle of the courtroom, annoying the judge.
Malone and Esmond Sr. arrive at the airport and see Piggy, who instructs Malone to tell Lorelei that he is sorry for what he did. Malone agrees to tell her, then leaves. They arrive at the court to testify against Lorelei, but Dorothy (still in disguise as Lorelei) is on the stand and tells Malone that she is in love with him but will never forgive him if he does anything to hurt Lorelei. Malone refuses to testify against her, withdrawing his case. He realizes who has the tiara and tracks it down to Piggy who is still at the airport. Malone brings the tiara to the court where it is "legally" returned to its rightful owner, Sir Francis. Meanwhile, back at the nightclub, Lorelei tells the elder Esmond, on her behalf, "I don't want to marry your son for his money, I want to marry him for your money - don't you know, a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn't marry a girl for being pretty, but doesn't it help?" She also explains to him that if he had a daughter, he would want the best for her, and that it is only fair for her to want the same. Once he is convinced that Lorelei isn't "stupid" and "conceited," he gives his blessing for her to marry his son. The two girls proceed to have a double wedding, singing to themselves "Two Little Girls from Little Rock" as they walk down the aisle.

Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei Lee
Jane Russell as Dorothy Shaw
Charles Coburn as Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman
Elliott Reid as Ernie Malone
Tommy Noonan as Gus Esmond
Taylor Holmes as Mr. Esmond Sr.
Norma Varden as Lady Beekman

Upon release in July 1953, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was greeted with rave reviews by both the critics and audiences. The film earned more than seven and a half million dollars at the box office and was the sixth highest-grossing film of 1953, right behind Monroe's next feature How to Marry a Millionaire. Monroe and Russell were both praised for their performances as Lorelei and Dorothy; and, as a result, the characters have become extremely popular in pop culture.

As a result of the film's success, Monroe and Russell were given the chance to put their hand and feet prints in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre; a spectacle that got a lot of publicity for both actresses.

Ticket prices listed on floridatheatre.com are inclusive of all applicable facility fees and service charges at The Florida Theatre Box Office.

Nicole Kidman starring in Baz Lurhman's take on the number:

and of course Madonna's take on the film's iconic images and choreography:

article compiled by Stephen Dare