Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 20, 2019)
1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was far from Marilyn Monroe’s first film, and it wasn’t even the initial hit in which she appeared. Marilyn had a small part in 1950’s All About Eve, a flick that won the Best Picture Oscar for that year.
However, based on a survey of her résumé, Blondes seems to be Marilyn’s first big success as a lead, and it was the one that firmly set her up as the legend we know today. Blondes also strongly set a pattern that Monroe would be unable to shake: the ditzy, greedy blonde bimbo.
In Blondes, Marilyn plays Lorelei Lee, a lounge singer engaged to Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan), a wealthy but dull Daddy’s boy. It seems that Daddy is intent on stopping this union, so Gus ships Lorelei off to France where they can soon be wed.
Along to keep her dizzy friend’s excessive tendencies in check, Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) serves as Lorelei’s levelheaded singing partner and friend. She thinks Lorelei needs to find something other than money to love in a man, while Lorelei believes that Dorothy should become more materialistic.
Much of the film takes place on their boat cruise to France, where the two encounter a series of men and have a generally wild time before nasty reality sets in on the continent. Some snags interfere with Lorelei’s plans, and the duo need to set things right.
Movies like Blondes pretty much define the concept of light-hearted, escapist fare, and for that kind of flick, this becomes a fairly entertaining piece. One shouldn’t go into the film with great expectations, as they’ll likely be dashed.
At its heart, it’s a slick and frothy piece that pops a few tunes, provides a few laughs and goes on its merry way. Is there anything wrong with that?
Heavens, no! I have no objection to this sort of pleasant, insubstantial program. However, I couldn’t help but think that had Blondes not featured the world’s most legendary sex symbol, few people would remember it.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with the film, and Blondes keeps things loose enough to largely maintain my attention. As longtime readers know, I don’t care for musicals, so I definitely could have lived without this film’s various production numbers.
All of them look nicely flashy, but even the film’s famous rendition of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” leaves me cold, as I kept wishing I were watching the video for “Material Girl” instead. At least Blondes didn’t go overboard with the showtunes, so these don’t become a big distraction.
Ultimately, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes provides a slight but generally entertaining experience, though the movie has few genuine strengths. Its lead actresses are certainly adequate, and the supporting cast adds competent performances.
Director Howard Hawks moves the film along at an acceptable pace, and I find a few laughs along the way. Other than Lorelei’s creepy habit of referring to her boyfriend as “Daddy” and too many showtunes, I find few complaints. Blondes offers a dated tone and features a thin plot, but its charms make it a fairly fun piece.