Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

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(1953) ★★★★

Film4: Saturday 6 June, 11am

Big, brassy musical comedy with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell as the strapping lasses singing Two Little Girls from Little Rock and, most famously, Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend. The songs are good, the jokes are funny and the two legendary ladies show that they really can act. In dazzling Technicolor that’s absolutely fabulous, Monroe is seen to special advantage. She’s here at her loveliest and funniest, a breathless dizzy blonde with a head for figures – she’s variously described as a ‘mercenary nitwit’ and a ‘blonde mantrap’. She lends perfect weight to her daffy dialogue: “Pardon me, please, is this the way to Europe, France?” Charles Coburn has his moments, too, as the randy old codger caught drooling over Monroe at the dinner table by his late-arriving wife: “There you are, my dear – won’t you come and join us?” The dowager-like Norma Varden looks distinctly unimpressed: “I just have.” The entirely innocent Marilyn remains blissfully oblivious to any awkward undercurrents: “I just adore conversation, don’t you?” Hollywood’s he-manliest director Howard Hawks (equally at home with Cary Grant’s His Girl Friday as with John Wayne’s Rio Bravo) makes only one oddly camp move. Allowing Jane Russell to be supported poolside during Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love by gyrating male Olympic athletes. Some excitable commentators have noted the Olympians are wearing gold lamé swimming trunks. Actually, it’s worse – they’re flesh coloured. Like Marilyn says: “Am I intruding or is he leaving, one hopes?” Sky Movies Drama has more Monroe in Billy Wilder’s riotous Some Like It Hot at 1.35pm, and she’ll be standing over the subway grille in The Seven Year Itch (Sky Movies Drama, Tuesday, 2pm). Later today, Michelle Williams bravely takes the lead in My Week with Marilyn (BBC2, 10.30pm), switching from sultry to sulky in a simpering second as she clashes with Kenneth Branagh’s Laurence Olivier. Hooray for Pinewood!

Certificate: U
Duration: 92min