Archive for September 7th, 2011

by John Greco

Say, suppose the ship hit an iceberg and sinks. Which one of them do you save from drowning?”

“Those girls couldn’t drown.”

Filmed in Technicolor with its brassy gaudy colors and gold digging women on the hunt for wealthy men, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” could be looked at as a poster child for capitalism, a farcical battle of the sexes in a war where men did not stand a chance. The two female stars had more curves to throw than two pitchers in a nine inning baseball game. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell were the male sexual fantasies of the 1950’s, caricatures of real women with the kind of bodies teenage boys only saw in magazines keep under their beds, and they exploited it full tilt. Artfully, Marilyn and Jane work their way through every male in the film, succeeding in every battle. They always came out on top.

The film gets off to an extraordinary start with the sexually suggestive (though it was toned down in the final cut) “Just Two Girls from Little Rock” song and dance number. Director Howard Hawks films the two ladies unashamed, staring at the camera, almost daring every man in the audience to come forward and challenge their attitude. However, the most memorable sequence in the picture is Monroe’s big number, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” with all its garish color and consumerist ideology built into every note. Monroe eats up the screen; she and the audience both know this is the main showpiece of the film. It is pure Hollywood gaudiness and entertaining as hell. You may notice a young George Chakiris, future leader of The Sharks in “West Side Story,” as one of the chorus boys in this number. (more…)

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by James Clark

This is to me a fascinating movie, insofar as its raging gaucherie in conjunction with a complement of easily overlooked sophistication predates by fourteen years a similar marshalling of comedic and musical resources, in Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort. (As such, François Truffaut referred to Howard Hawks’ effort as “an intelligent and pitiless film.”)

Its opening scene gets down to business by turning Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell loose upon the subject of liberation from Arkansas. Resplendent in matching scarlet-sequined gowns that allow their spectacular bodies to go for broke, they stalk about a Vegas-like stage and sing about themselves, “Two Little Girls from Little Rock,” as having been rudely handled by one of those razorbacks. However, we would be headed for confusion were we to content ourselves with the song’s most simple information, about being fed up with rural beasts and heading for big-city beauties in the form of mastering the art of intercepting someone else’s huge cash flow. The performance of the song is in fact subtly highlighted by disclosure that, though delivering a slick duet, the performers are not on the same page. After the two-part intro, about having lived “on the wrong side of the tracks,” Marilyn’s “Lorelei” coos, “Then someone broke my heart in Little Rock.” She smiles radiantly, swivelling her hips as if it doesn’t get any better. Jane’s “Dorothy” also has a solo turn, that runs, “Now one of these days in my fancy clothes/ I’m going back to punch the nose/ of the one who broke my heart, the one who broke my heart…” Elaborating in song upon her evolution, Lorelei touches upon arriving in New York, finding men there to be as big a disappointment as in the boonies (“I learned an awful lot in Little Rock,” covering her formative enlightenment to the effect that it would be a big mistake to get snared in such interaction), but also finding how sustaining the City’s rush of sky’s the limit perceptions can be. As she reminisces (“I was young and determined/ to be wined and dined in ermine”), her face and body convey a quite riveting sense of ecstasy. That is a timbre also apparent in her coming in alone (and eclipsing Dorothy’s going for vengeance) with “the one who broke my heart” (as if to say, “What the hell, there’s bigger game and I’m on its trail!). Add to Dorothy’s tough talk a pitch of performance kinetics self-consciously wooden, and she launches as a Beast to Lorelei’s Beauty. (As they belt out, “Now that I’m known in the biggest banks”—Lorelei joyous—Dorothy winks, as if to say—borrowing from numerous episodes with Bob Hope—“Just light entertainment, folks.”) (more…)

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