‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ – Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in a musical buddy comedy on Hulu and Criterion Channel

Howard Hawks discovered one of the great female screen teams in bubbly gold digger Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and wry, unapologetically man-hungry Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), a musical take on the Jazz Age novel by screenwriting great Anita Loos.

Lorelei and Dorothy are showgirls and best friends on a luxury liner to Paris for their next gig, where a private detective (Elliot Reid) has been dispatched by the millionaire father of Lorelei’s fiancé (Tommy Noonan) to catch her in a compromising position and stop the impending nuptials. It’s a set-up for plenty of compromising situations (British aristocrat Piggy, played by Charles Coburn as a leering dirty old man pursuing Lorelei, is to blame for most) and Hawks plays the broad sexual humor for what is surely a male audience. But while he photographs them like cover girls, he never, ever allows them to play second fiddle to the men. These two little girls from Little Rock are thoroughly loyal to each other and always in charge.

It’s a delightful, hilarious farce, with great musical numbers (Monroe’s iconic “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and Russell’s “Isn’t Anyone Here For Love,” sung to a bevy of beefy but oblivious bodybuilders) and gorgeously garish color and a truly memorable comic performance by the frog-voiced child actor George “Foghorn” Winslow as a young heir apparent to a fortune who isn’t immune to Lorelei’s “animal magnetism.”

Russell (who gets top billing) and Monroe (whose star was still rising when she made the film) have a beautiful chemistry and superb byplay. It’s a shame they never reunited for another pairing.

Not rated.

Also on DVD and Blu-ray and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes [Blu-ray]
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes [DVD]
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes / How to Marry a Millionaire / Seven Year Itch / Some Like it Hot [DVD]

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The Blu-ray and DVD editions feature stills, a restoration demonstration, and the original trailer.


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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