Habitual readers of Required Viewing will know that we’ve been digging into some holiday classics of late. We have plenty more coming on that front, but when your local Alamo Drafthouse shows Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on the big screen, you simply do not pass up that up. And so we’re bringing you a special bonus installment, wherein Annemarie enjoys her first cinematic experience with both Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.
So, take us away AM. Why did I make you watch this movie? How was your first experience with, arguably, Hollywood’s most legendary icon? Are diamonds really a girl’s best friend? Would you rather hang out with Lorelei or Dorothy?
AM: Classic Hollywood cannot be experienced without its best blonde bombshell: Marilyn Monroe. She wasn’t the first to embody the flighty sexy archetype, but she arguably did it the best. She’s all platinum blonde, dripping with charisma and using it to get what she wants. I also love me a movie musical, and I was pleasantly surprised that both Monroe and Russell can sing the hell out of those numbers in Gentlemen. Like most things we watch, I am not sure why I hadn’t ever seen a Monroe movie, but this one was hugely enjoyable. Convenience may have been the main reason we saw this one before any of her other films, but it’s also likely one of the better examples of her talents.
Diamonds weren’t the engagement ring stone of choice up until De Beers decided it needed to be in the 1930s. There’s an amazingly shocking The Atlantic article from 1982 titled “Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond” that you can peruse if you’re so inclined, Brooke (and readers of Required Viewing), but essentially, this plot wouldn’t have made sense in any other context. Lorelei is the shameless gold digger and Dorothy is her equally man-obsessed bestie who’s not at all interested in a bank account. Neither woman understand why the other goes after love in her way, but they’re still best friends who look after each other and protect each other no matter what. Strong female friendships are always welcome in our world, and I was pleasantly surprised to see and hear them fiercely defend and love each other.
Honestly, I think I’d prefer to hang out with both girls. I think their rapport is most of what I enjoyed about the movie (aside from all the Olympians on the boat).
Now, just because I’m the blonder of the two, I feel like I’d be typecast as Lorelai, but I feel like I’m probably more of a Dorothy than Lorelai. I’ll get to my favorite part in a bit, but first I want to hear Brooke’s take on this. Is this a good classic Hollywood movie musical example? Whose wardrobe would you rather have? And do you feel that you have more in common with the Blonde or the Brunette?
“You know I think you’re the only girl in the world who can stand on a stage with a spotlight in her eye and still see a diamond inside a man’s pocket.”
B: I couldn’t agree more about the relationship and rapport between our heroines being the real gem in this picture. In an era when women were often portrayed as catty and needy, these two were fully deserving of a verse or three of Destiny’s Child’s Independent Women. They made that money and took right good care of themselves — sure, they get into jams along the way, but never let it be said that they don’t have fun along the way.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is about as classic as it gets when it comes to Hollywood musicals. Even when a good portion of this thing takes place on a boat, we have massive set pieces with our main gals doing the thing right proud. The costumes and choreography are elaborate — remember when Dorothy is just right in the middle of the Olympic workouts? Classic. And glorious.
I think I would rather have Lorelei’s wardrobe, the dresses are a little softer and more comfy looking, though, it must be said, Dorothy is probably the more fiercely dressed of the duo. She’s has so many striking angles and bold looks, I love it. I’m just not sure I could rock it as well as she does. But that’s where the similarities betwixt Lorelei Lee and I end. I am undoubtedly much, much, much more the Dorothy Shaw. Give me a broke Olympian over Piggy any day of the week.
Before Annemarie shares her favorite scene, I’ll go ahead and chime in with mine. And straight off the bat, I’ll admit that if not for outside factors this probably wouldn’t be my favorite scene. Instead I would choose Dorothy’s portrayal of Lorelei in the courtroom. However, those external factors exist. And so, my favorite scene is the iconic Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend performance.
I would like to say this is because this is the moment where Marilyn’s star power is more undeniable than at any other point in the movie. Or because it’s so satisfying to see her shove that self-sufficiency right in Gus’ face. Or because the dress is so fabulous. But it comes down to two facts that really have nothing to do with this movie. Madonna and my grandmother. Madonna was a MASSIVE cultural icon for me during my formative years. I watched the VHS of all the videos in her Immaculate Collection with such fervor that my mom special ordered Desperately Seeking Susan for my birthday when I was in second grade so she could get sick of something else. (And yes, in the near future Desperately Seeking Susan will make an appearance in this series.)
But well before that time, the Material Girl video had made its impression. I didn’t know then that the video was so referential, but I loved watching Madge piled high with diamonds and rebuffing would-be suitors. Then there’s my grandmother, who even when she was so sick she could scarcely remember what she had for breakfast perfectly recalled the plots to so many classics from her youth. While I was in film history I would call her and we would talk about what we watched. We never watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in that class, so I never properly got to discuss this movie with her, but I know that she was fond of it, because she taught me Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend when I was about three years old. We sang it all the time. And this scene broke my heart a bit because we never watched it together, but it also reminded me of her singing while she cooked or cleaned and that was worth the heartache.
“The chaperone’s job is to see that nobody else has any fun. Nobody chaperones the chaperone. That’s why I’m so right for this job.”
AM: I didn’t grow up with the same love of Madonna, but I do love me a movie musical. And you’re right, it doesn’t get more iconic than Marilyn in her pink gown purring “Diamonds.” The tribute to that song in Moulin Rouge is probably my favorite part of that movie, but the original is still far and away the best.
As for favorite scenes, while I do love all the musical numbers, I must say that Lorelai giving the dress-down to Gus’ dad is the best for me. “Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?”
You’re thinking all along that Lorelei is just as dumb as she looks, fully living up to and embracing the stereotype that blondes are stupid, when she drops this on Esmund Sr. Yeah, she’s using her looks to get what she wants, but why is that a bad thing on the surface? We know from earlier scenes that she’s incredibly fond of Gus as a person, and she knows that she wouldn’t have caught the attentions of a millionaire without her looks. Fair is fair.
My runner-up favorite scene is when Lorelei attempts to entangle Dorothy with a rich heir of her own, and it turns out the man is a 10-year-old boy. That was incredible and made me chuckle quite a bit.
I agree, I couldn’t pull off Dorothy’s wardrobe, but I doubt I could do the curvy sweaters that Lorelai wears justice either. I’ll just settle for my comfy jeans and scarves and leave the bombshell outfits to the ’50s. And maybe Halloween.
What other lessons in etiquette did we learn from the girls? Now, I know neither of us would have preened over Piggy, but real talk. If you didn’t have a college degree and you were looking for a better life, how would 1950s Brooke have gone about making a living?
“Dorothy, please, a lady never admits her feet hurt.”
B: The fact that I can’t admit that my feet hurt is a new one on me. But, I think the biggest reveal for me is that there is a way to make $15k (in 50s money) in an hour and forty-five minutes. We need lessons from our gal Lorelei, because I’m feeling quite underpaid with that comparison. I also learned that it is ill-advised to attempt to squeeze through a porthole and that a flashy musical ditty will go a long way to getting you out of a sticky legal situation in France, so I’d say we’re definitely up on walking around knowledge coming out of this picture.
I also adore the 10-year-old boy, like the girls he is disarmingly matter-of-fact. I die a bit when he explains his two-fold reasons for not flagging down an authority figure when he discovers Lorelei in the porthole: “The first reason is I’m too young to be sent to jail. The second reason is you got a lot of animal magnetism.” 10/10 for him.
But now on to the big question you ask, AM. What would 1950s Brooke do without a degree? I think I would have found some way to Europe and tried my hand at the ex-patriate life there. When that failed, spectacularly, I would have returned home, persuaded some top-notch home cook to teach me her ways and gone man-hunting — either for a greaser with a heart of gold or a professorial type with sweaters. I would then have dazzled my target with baked goods and succulent JELLO casseroles and all manner of odd ’50s grub. When he popped the question I would have become a disillusioned kept woman, but filled my days with rabble-rousing progressive books and musicals like this one.
Out with it AM. What would your master plan have been? And do you have any closing thoughts to bring us back on track?
AM: Wow, that’s impressively detailed. To be honest, as women, Brooke and I probably would have already gotten the home economics lessons necessary to build a nice home even without a degree (but reliant on a man’s income), but I love the idea that we’d both want to go it alone if we had neither.
It sounds pretty good to galavant off to Europe, and I am thankful I do have a college degree (and subsequent income source) and a man who’d come with me. Not to brag, of course, and I believe 1950s Annemarie without the benefit of education or man friend would honestly have wanted to do the same thing as I do now. It does put into stark perspective the fact that I have it pretty awesome in 2016. I don’t have the dresses, but I do have the economic freedom.
And I can say whenever I want that my feet hurt.
That’s all for this installment! Next time we’ll dream of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…