‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ or — The Irresistible Allure of “Effortless” Lustre?
It leaves you reeling like an unexpected smack on the lips. What the hell was that?! I’m not sure; it was too dazzling and moving too fast to accurately define.
It travels light and is built for speed, like going to Paris where your only luggage is a best friend and a priceless tiara. It’s also a musical containing several spectacular numbers (one of which is performed twice!) yet it’s only 91 minutes longs. This means, in an unfair comparison but let’s make it anyway, it’s half the length of ‘The Sound of Music’ (1965), but that’s a movie so leaden and lumbering I’m always amazed the von Trapps manage to claw their way off stage at the end let alone climb their way to freedom over any mountains or hills.
What accounts for this momentum? I guess it’s easy to move quickly when you’re simply two girls having fun, but what’s powering it? Lederer, Loos and Fields’ deceptively clever script? Howard Hawks’ flirtatious direction? Or maybe it’s the fact that this is Monroe at her most effortlessly captivating to the point that the only people capable of keeping up with her are the equally stunning Jane Russell and a precocious kid?
By the time Monroe launches into ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ we’re hopelessly transfixed and it’s not just the retina-blistering production design that does it but that Monroe still manages to outshine those iridescent pinks, reds and blacks with an unique intensity that’s legitimately unreal. It’s like nothing else in Hawks (but that could be because word has it choreographer Jack Cole actually handled the sequence) and is so strikingly modern you can understand why Madonna could recreate it for a music video without changing a thing.
But don’t forget Russell who possibly has the harder job to pull off (even the title is giving her the uphill struggle) and she succeeds by giving Monroe as much space as humanly possible, easing back and letting us know she’s enjoying the show as much as we are, and how can we fail to respond to such joyous generosity?
This is a sharp, luminous film polished to a brilliant cut. It’s also one of the greatest movies about female friendship you could wish for (the men’s needs here are practically irrelevant), that adamantine bond between Russell and Monroe as touching as it is an outrageous engine for laughter. In execution it’s so causal it appears flippant yet be careful not to fall into the trap of dismissing this movie as a “dumb blonde” because this film far smarter than either you or I will ever be. Like a diamond tiara, or an unbreakable friendship, it’ll last forever.