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Bombshells Bonanza

February 17, 2010

We were thrilled to discover that one of our favourite-ever movies, the 1953 classic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, is getting a new lease of life in cinemas this month – and we’re already polishing our tiaras in readiness for Saturday afternoon’s screening at the Glasgow Film Festival.

There’s nothing like watching a brilliant old movie on the big screen, and in the company of others (as opposed to watching it on TV, alone,  in your jammies).  We’re even hoping for a bit of a singalong as this is the film in which Marilyn Monroe performed her iconic Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend number (pictured above).

This was one of Marilyn’s breakthrough films – and her performance as dopey, and utterly transparent (except to men) gold-digger Lorelei Lee is hilarious – and beautifully complemented by Jane Russell‘s priceless turn as Lorelei’s wise-cracking, worldly-wise best pal Dorothy Shaw.

The pair set sail for Paris in the hope that Lorelei’s wealthy fiance will shake off his disapproving father and follow her there for the wedding.  But en route, Dorothy, the supposed chaperone, is distracted by the Olympic team while Lorelei is distracted by the diamond tiara owned by the wife of English aristocrat Sir Francis Beakman (veteran character actor Charles Coburn, pictured below) ..

Not only is the film sparklingly funny (it was directed by veteran comedy director Howard Hawks and based on Anita Loos’s dryly witty book) and glorious to look at, but it also boasts some terrific songs which are memorably performed by the two stars. We particularly love the Hoagy Carmichael/Harold Adamson number When Love Goes Wrong (above), which our heroines sing at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, accompanied by an accordionist.

Marilyn was really a very good singer and this movie – along with Some Like It Hot – showcased her oft-unsung vocal talents.

Ironically, Marilyn was not intended to be the star of the film – she actually gets second billing after Jane in the credits, and her salary was considerably lower. But her response to being told that she wasn’t the star was: “Well whatever I am, I’m still the blonde.”

Despite the potential for rivalry, the two bombshells got on famously, and 20th Century Fox sought out other projects for them to work on together – but, sadly, an onscreen reunion never happened.

* The new print of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes opens at the BFI Southbank and selected cinemas on Friday February 26.  Edinburgh’s Filmhouse  (www.filmhousecinema.com) is showing it from March 5-14.

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