Monday, 14 February 2011

Gentlement Prefer Blondes (1953)

Viewing Context:
Tasha's LoveFilm pick. I wasn't even going to watch it, but having caught the first five minutes or so, I got sucked in.

Directed by Howard Hawkes; Director - amongst many other films - of The Big Sleep, which I really want to watch, but at the minute I only have the colourised version and would prefer the black and white one. Might even try read the book first for this one. Screnplay by Charles Lederer (His Girl Friday)

What Happened:
Two friends who couldn't be much more different; the blonde, textbook materialist, Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe), only interested in men for their wealth, is contrasted against Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell), the hard nosed independent woman who is not bothered about wealth and status in the slightest. The two girls are singers and Lee’s fiance pays for them to take the boat to Paris. Shaw, as chaperon for the trip, is instantly distracted by a team of athletes allowing Lee the freedom to seek out even wealthier men, whilst trying to set up Shaw with a real (in her terms, meaning rich) man.

What do I believe it was thematically about:
Commented - though without harsh judgement - on the state of materialism. It made Lorelei out to be a shallow gold digger, but one that wasn’t vindictive; she was in fact quite sweet and charming and though wily and cunning, never particularly manipulative. By contrasting her against Dorothy, who was the yin to her yang, we see two very different, but very assertive and well rounded women. Both have their own issues, but relatively in control of their life, making their own decisions. The fact that they both make very different decisions yet are both treated the same within the narrative just shows how the film does not put forward any kind of ideal vision of womanhood.

What it did particularly well:
Scripting: Not only was the dialogue captivating, as characters knocked about the witty banter effortlessly, but the pacing of the whole film, the placement of any set pieces allowed the film to just seamlessly flow through. The sing-song set pieces were smoothly woven into the rest of the film, whilst still being big and spectacular (Sweeney Todd could learn from this).

What unimpressed or didn't quite reach potential:
Although I do like the fact that the film was never preachy and that Dorothy weighed up any shortcomings of Lorelei, I still cannot get passed just how much it accepted, condoned and promoted a rampant, hedonistic, materialistic consumerism.

Performance of the film:
Jane Russel did sort of blow me away, but it was Monroe that impressed me the most, with her ability to convincingly play on the beautiful, yet ditsy and helpless blonde routine so convincingly, as if she has no idea what is going on around her, yet she is in fact at least two steps ahead of pretty much every other character.

Scene of the film:
Building on from what I said above about Monroe’s performance and how strong the scripting was, the best scene for me was when she convinced the waiter to ensure that a certain rich individual would be at her table for dinner. In this scene, the audience was shown just how well she could not only play the game, but make the rules up as she goes. She is so wily.

Most outstanding or memorable feature:
The double act of the two leads; the way they both play off of each other, which is thanks to the script writing, creating these characters and crafting the situations they find themselves in. The performances from the pair of them had to be at this high level to carry the sophisticated script. Finally, the choreographers/musicians were responsible for heightening the spectacle and the grandeur of the couple.

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