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.
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.
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.”
But when we talk about our favourite Jane Russell scenes I’m always reminded of Russell’s faux-Marilyn courtroom scene that comes not long after Marilyn’s iconic “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” showcase. Interestingly, in the courtroom scene Russell performs a shorter rendition of “Diamonds”. While it is not as famous as Marilyn’s musical number, it is very funny and a showstopper in its own right. But how did we get to this point and why did we need the scene?
Well, in the final act of the film, there’s a dispute over Lady Beekman’s missing tiara that gets Lorelei (Monroe) in all sorts of bother. In short Lorelei is accused of stealing the tiara and is called before a Paris court to answer the charge of theft. It is here that Dorothy (Russell) schemes to buy Lorelei some time by impersonating her at the court hearing about the whereabouts of the tiara. Russell comedic flair has the court believing that she is Lorelei, even breaking out in a song and dance. But soon after it appears the jig is up when Dorothy’s boyfriend strolls into the court hearing threatening to expose the ruse. Dorothy though quickly regains her composure impersonating Lorelei once again and begs the court to speak before she’s exposed.
In short, she reiterates to the court (but really she is letting her boyfriend know) that she is innocent and that her friend Dorothy would be devastated if Dorothy’s new flame spoke badly of Lorelei:
“There’s a certain young man that Dorothy likes. In fact, she’s very fond of him. And Dorothy would never speak to this man again if he ever did anything to hurt me, Lorelei. So I think this young man had just better know that…well… well…Dorothy thinks she’s in love with him!”
This final admission of love from Dorothy (as Lorelei) is enough for Dorothy’s boyfriend to change his mind in revealing the truth of her courtroom antics and instead exonerates Lorelei.