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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes(1953)
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell sizzle, sing and dance as a couple of gold diggers out to land rich husbands. This Technicolor film fable follows the exploits of two gorgeous women aboard a luxury ocean liner. One (Monroe) loves diamonds and the other (Russell) loves men. On the ship with them are an elderly diamond mine owner (Charles Coburn), a team of handsome and muscular Olympic athletes, a fascinating but very young millionaire (George Winslow) and a nosy private eye. Packed with 40 minutes of production numbers, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes includes the legendary title song and "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."
For more about Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Blu-ray release, see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on August 2, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Howard Hawks
Writer: Charles Lederer
Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid, Tommy Noonan, Taylor Holmes
» See full cast & crew
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Blu-ray Review
Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, August 2, 2012
She was the innocent girl next door and a va-va-voom sex symbol. A "dumb" blond anxious to be taken seriously. The archetypal exploited starlet, a shrewd showbiz negotiator, and an on-top-of-the-world performer with a personal life in shambles. A flame snuffed out too soon and a 20th century pop culture icon forever immortalized on the screen. Marilyn Monroe was and is a glorious contradiction, and the enigma of her life, career, and death has inspired an ongoing stream of biographies and photobooks, critical commentary and general interest. As this year is the 50th anniversary of Monroe's probable suicide, the tributes have been coming in at an even faster pace, from Vanity Fair covers to NBC's Smash to the recent My Week with Marilyn.
20th Century Fox is getting in on the action with the Forever Marilyn collection, a seven-disc set that features a selection of films made between 1952 and 1962, the decade that took Monroe from a pretty up-and-coming face to the most recognized and highly paid actress on the planet. The films are also available individually—Some Like It Hot and The Misfits came out last year, the rest arrive simultaneously this week —and since the set includes no exclusive special features, it's really up to fans if they want to go all in or pick and choose which titles they want. (Unsurprisingly, you save a bit of cash with the boxed set.) Instead of writing up a single, epically long review of the Forever Marilyn collection as a whole, we've put up a sort of overview here of the packaging and contents, with links to the individual reviews.
The first film in the chronological set is 1953's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a Howard Hawks-directed screen adaptation of the popular stage musical of the same name, itself based on a novel by Anita Loos that might best be described as early chick-lit. Hot off the controversy of her Playboy appearance, and propelled by the success of her femme fatale role in the noir-ish Niagara, Marilyn Monroe plays materially- obsessed showgirl Lorelei Lee, a ditzy blond engaged to Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan), the nebbish but adoring son of a wealthy business magnate. They're to be wed in France, but since Gus' father opposes their marriage—he's rightfully concerned that Lorelei is simply a gold digger—he forbids his son to make the trans-Atlantic voyage.
Lorelei goes anyway, bringing along her fellow dancer gal-pal Dorothy (Jane Russell) as a kind of chaperone, and Dorothy does indeed have her hands full keeping the blond bombshell out of trouble. Lorelei is something of a bloodhound for wealth; she sniffs out the cruise ship's most loaded male passengers, including an elderly, married diamond mine owner named Piggie (Charles Coburn). Brunette Dorothy is her polar opposite, whip-smart and far more obsessed with love—and looks—than money. They're both gorgeous and bosomy though, the clear belles of this ocean-bound ball. A team of U.S. Olympians is traveling onboard, and one athlete asks another, "Suppose the ship hit an iceberg and sank. Which one would you save?" His friend gives a knowing look and says, "Those girls couldn't sink."
Additional drama is supplied by the presence of Ernie Malone (Elliot Reid), a handsome private eye who's been hired by Gus' father to trail the two ladies and confirm whether or not Lorelei is on the up and up. This leads to all kinds of hilarious hijinks, especially after Malone snaps a photo of Lorelei in an embrace with Piggie, and Dorothy—who's slowly falling in love with the gumshoe—has to figure out a plan to get the film canister from the P.I.'s pocket. Let's just say it involves sleeping pills and the most potent cocktail imaginable. And then there's the precocious eight-year-old millionaire who's drawn to help Lorelei because she has, as he puts it, "a lot of animal magnetism." From the mouths of babes...
Shot in glorious Technicolor, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is an impressive visual spectacle—saturated in those dreamy three-strip tones—but that's the least it has to offer. Monroe and Russell's fire-and-ice onscreen chemistry makes for some fall-down funny banter, with the former developing the bubbly dumb blond persona she'd play in several films to come. ("Daddy," she says to Gus, "I'll bet you made me the happiest girl in the world.") The musical numbers are memorable too, from the colorful can-can of the opener "Two Little Girls From Little Rock" to the innuendo- injected "Anyone Here for Love?," with its half-naked Olympians in flesh-colored swimming trunks doing suggestive calisthenics in the ship's gym. But, of course, the film is best known for its climactic song-and-dance, which has Marilyn in her iconic pink gown slapping tuxedoed suitors with a folding fan while singing "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." It's arguably one of the most defining pop-culture moments in American history; chances are, when you think "Marilyn Monroe," you envision this scene.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Blu-ray, Video Quality
20th Century Fox's high definition remaster of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes may prove slightly controversial, for one reason only—look closely at the 1080p/AVC-encoded picture and you'll notice that the natural 35mm grain structure has been dampened somewhat by digital noise reduction, occasionally giving it the appearance of being frozen in place. That said—and before you start writing angry e-mails to the studio—this is far from the most egregious use of DNR I've seen. Actually, the film looks quite striking here; the restoration has left the print in absolutely pristine shape, and the DNR is really only something you'll notice if you're projecting the film onto an extremely large screen or standing immediately in front of your television, pixel peeping. Yes, the image seems a bit softened, but there's none of the smeary, plastic quality that you sometimes associate with noise filtering. No halo-inducing edge enhancement either. In terms of clarity, this is still a drastic step up from the previously released DVD, with everything looking tighter and sharper and better defined. Where the encode really impresses, though, is the vivid Technicolor palette, which easily deserves the term "eye candy." This is a prime example of that distinctive Fox Technicolor look from the '50s—bubbly and creamy-toned and absolutely gorgeous to behold. Look no further than the opening musical number, with its purple curtains and red sequined dresses and pink-feathered headpieces. On second thought, look further—you'll want to, as the film is visually stunning from start to finish. Even with the moderate application of DNR, Fox's restoration deserves high marks.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As with all of the Marilyn Monroe titles Fox is releasing this week, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' original sound mix has been lightly retooled into a modern multi-channel presentation, via a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Don't worry, purists, the changes are minimal. The mix, like Marilyn herself, is decidedly front-heavy—waka, waka—with the rear speakers only used to provide some breathing room for the score and to provide quiet ambience during the more hectic scenes, like the clamor of the ship-boarding sequence. Although somewhat constrained by the recording techniques of the time—no real bass, somewhat thin highs—the musical numbers sound wonderful, relatively rich and free of peaking, popping, crackles, or hisses. The vocals, in particular, are easy on the ears. Dialogue is clear and clean too, and always easily understood, sitting comfortably at the top of the mix. A Dolby Digital 1.0 track is included for comparison, and the disc also features a generous selection of dubs and subtitle options. See above for details.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
One of the most iconic movie musicals of the 1950s, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes added the phrase "diamonds are a girl's best friends" to the cultural lexicon and set the template for Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and other materialistic chanteuses to come. Sixty years on, the film is still diamond- sharp, ha-ha funny and wink-wink sexy, bolstered by Marilyn Monroe's oh daddy act, a formidable mixture of innocence and lusty desire. Like the film's star, 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release is a thing of beauty—slight noise reduction notwithstanding—and though the disc doesn't come with any new special features, Monroe fans will definitely want to upgrade. Highly recommended!
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