In 1984, Madonna was the hottest female music artist around, with her hit singles Like A Virgin and Material Girl racing up the charts. It is the latter single’s music video that caught everyone’s attention, an homage to Marilyn Monroe’s performance, of the song Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Madonna was truly inspired by her admiration to imitate Marilyn’s figure-hugging erotic and manipulative song and dance on a bunch of guys too stupid to know otherwise.
On the subject of Marilyn’s near perfect performance, not only in that famous choreographed scene, but the picture as a whole, we are left with no doubt that Monroe had truly become a bona fide star. Interestingly though, you would never have picked up on it, but Marilyn during the production of the film suffered from severe bouts of stage fright, which makes her performance even that more remarkable. Importantly, Marilyn’s co-star Jane Russell was apparently on hand a lot of the time during filming to coax Marilyn out of her dressing room. Russell was arguably instrumental in helping lift Marilyn’s confidence.
The film is a musical comedy, directed by Howard Hawks and taken from the musical stage hit by Joseph Fields and Anita Loos, about two women who know what they want and how to get it. In short, Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) and her friend Dorothy (Jane Russell) take a cruise ship to Paris, where Lorelei hopes to marry the wealthy Gus Esmond (Tommy Nooman). There are plenty of laughs, musical numbers and eligible gentlemen along the way that they might meet.
Although many people nowadays, refer to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as a Marilyn Monroe picture, lets not forget co-star Jane Russell wonderful standout performance as showgirl Dorothy Shaw. There is no doubt in my mind that, without Russell’s savvy and relatable and at times manipulative performance, Monroe would have struggled to carry the picture on her own. Personally, one of my favourite Russell lines from the film that gets plenty of attention these days goes something like…“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.”
On a final note, it’s also worthwhile mentioning that many of the films most memorable scenes work best with the back and forth banter shared between Monroe and Russell. For instance, the classic scene where Lorelei is holding a tiara almost always comes to mind first.
Lorelei: How do you put it around your neck?
Dorothy: You don’t, honey, it goes on your head!
Lorelei: You must think I was born yesterday.
Dorothy: Well, sometimes there’s just no other possible explanation.