An attractive screen tintuner has been fashioned from the musical stage hit, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” and it’s a flashy film show with enough s.a. and escapism to rate its full share of the boxoffice. Surefire casting of Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe to project the physical and dialog lines should test theater cooling systems and give the ticket windows a good run for the money.
The Joseph Fields-Anita Loos stage original has been modernized in the slick Sol C. Siegel production, but the general theme and principal characters are intact. Only three of the stage tunes by Jule Styne and Leo Robin are used, but two numbers were cleffed by Hoagy Carmichael and Harold Adamson so that five songs, plus reprises, are spotted during the 91 minutes of footage.
A strong play to the sophisticated dialog and situations is given by Howard Hawks’ direction and he maintains the racy air that brings the musical off excellently at a pace that helps cloak the fact that it’s rather lightweight, but sexy, stuff. however, not much more is needed when patrons can look at Russell-Monroe lines as displayed in slick costumes and Technicolor.
Together, the two femmes are the picture’s outstanding assets for exploitation purposes and entertainment. Miss Russell is a standout and handles the lines and songs with a comedy flair she has previously demonstrated. Miss Monroe matches with a newly displayed ability to sex a song as well as point up the eye values of a scene by her presence. Made well worth listening to by the star team are “Two Little Girls from Little Rock,” a revised version of the stage original; “Bye, Bye, Baby” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” plus the new songs, “Anyone Here for Love,” a production number socked by Miss Russell, and “When Love Goes Wrong,” sold by both.
The big production number in the presentation is “Diamonds,” flashily presented by Miss Monroe and a male line against a vivid red backdrop. Piece gets a reprise by Miss Russell, who takes off the Monroe voice and blonde charms during a Paris courtroom scene. Choreography by Jack Cole puts the emphasis on a wiggling type of terps, a form of movement, which the Misses Russell and Monroe sell with plenty of bounce.
Miss Monroe, a blonde who likes diamonds, and Miss Russell, a brunet who likes men, sail for Paris and fun when Tommy Noonan, the blonde’s lovesick millionaire, is unable to make the trip. Noonan’s pop, Taylor Holmes, who would like to bust up the son’s attachment, sends Elliott Reid a private eye, along to keep an eye on the girls. When he’s not acting like a male for Miss Russell’s benefit, Reid’s busy making notes on a diamond-inspired shipboard romance between the blonde and Charles Coburn, an English gent with a mine full of the precious stones. Tape recordings and photogs, plus a missing diamond tiara, are among the complications aimed at amusing while things are kept going until each girl gets what she most wants. Yarn could have used some schmaltz in the form of heart tugs to get deeper into an audience, but the script by Charles Lederer makes excellent use of zippy lines and the two femmes sell them strongly.
Coburn is in fine form as the diamond tycoon with an eye for dames. Reid and Noonan carry off the romantic male spots nicely. Little George Winslow’s big voice in a little body provides a comedy contrast to Miss Monroe’s little girl voice in a big girl’s body for his two scenes with her. Marcel Dalio, Holmes, Norma Varden, Howard Wendell and Steven Geray are among the others doing their share of the comedy work.
Picture bears evidence of having been pruned considerably from its original length and the deep cuts have resulted in some continuity choppiness. Harry J. Wild’s camera work adds to the picture’s visual stimulation. Lionel Newman’s musical direction and the Travilla costumes are among the other assets.