Hit Me With Your Best Shot!: “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”

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Oh, to have a straight-forward musical comedy like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes these days. In a brisk 90 minutes the laughs keep coming not just from the mile-a-minute punchlines, but also from the editing and shot compositions. The melodies are genuinely infectious and brightly optimistic without being cloying. The whole film works its ass off to entertain you without cracking a sweat, something the cynicism of recent musicals fails entirely at – especially the ones working even harder to apologize for their own genre.

Generally the film is as visually alive as its witty screenplay, all pops of color and effortless iconography. The director/cinematographer team of Howard Hawks and Harry J. Wild is harmonious in building the musical numbers to truly entertain, and almost in as much awe of the Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe power pairing as we are. In fact, that joyous actress revelry in two key songs is more than enough for one post, so let’s.

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The “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” sequence is the film’s catchiest tune, but so instantly iconic that it’s a career benchmark for more than just Monroe. It doesn’t even matter that the actress essentially repeats her arm extension choreography umpteen times in the number with the camera and set design making it surprisingly complex. But who cares, this is peak Marilyn, hilarious, glamorous, and demanding every ounce of your attention.

After all, the camera bathing her in gemstone lights from ruby to onyx to diamond, gives her all of the excess she longs for. But with the revelatory performance, it’s the audience that feels like they’re indulging.

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If you watched Blondes as a child as I did, “Anyone Here for Love?” is perhaps… um… not the same when you’re an adult. Even her earrings are anatomical! As many laughs as are mined from Russell’s ogling of the Olympic team, the number is just as funny for their complete ignoring of her. Sorry Jane, these gentlemen prefer dudes.

*whispers* Though that’s absurd because any self respecting gay would be basking in her brassy flawless glow… I’m not sure what’s more subversive for a 1950s musical: the overt gay subtext going on or that Russell is the sexiest thing in the frame with while basically singing about how she just wants to knock the boots. The scene is completely homoerotic without mocking Jane for lusting after them or mocking the men’s queerness, a refreshing lack of internalized homophobia considering the era.

There is plenty of low hanging fruit (pun obviously intended) in the sequence, so naturally, I chose its lead up as the Best Shot:

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Simple perfect goddessery. Try being this ferocious on screen, contemporary screen mavens! No, seriously, please try – this is the level of perfection we crave.

More of Hit Me With Your Best Shot!

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