Marilyn Monroe will always have enough allure to be able to draw in a movie theater crowd. It's part of what has earned her the well-deserved title of Legend. That's why the Film Forum, New York's preeminent cinema for watching cabalistic and obscure films, had the good business sense to choose Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as part of their Hollywood retrospective. The thing about Marilyn is, most people really don't seem to be acquainted with her onscreen persona, but rather with her serene photographic poses. The motive for going to see one of her movies in the theater is to see her figure and the face that has a perpetually drugged air about it in animated pose. But as Marilyn appears less and less fuckable as the societal body image shifts completely to "Sorry, men are only interested in twigs with anatomically incorrect big tits to match," will Marilyn still have the same draw? It's difficult to say because, when audiences go to see one of her movies, it seems like they're actually surprised by how comically adept she is. If everyone knew this going in, Marilyn's legend would be sure to truly last forever despite the prospect that she will very soon be deemed morbidly obese by current standards.
Even in New York, where intellectualism is rumored to abound, audiences have difficulty keeping a straight face through some of the more dated dialogue and practices of the time. Marilyn's presence alone isn't enough to distract from the occasional corniness that results from starring in a musical. Plus, the film was made in 1953, when Marilyn Monroe was still not a big enough star to snag the lead role, ousted by Jane Russell for top billing.
All of this being said, it is probably in the best interest of someone as supercilious as me to stay at home and watch a movie like this, but the 35mm print proved irresistible, and made watching it in HD look like a fucking joke. But my quandary with sharing a movie like this in a public venue stems from the fact that I just hate it when people can't appreciate what the past was like, choosing to mock it instead of understand it. And when you think about it, if people from the past saw how we lived and functioned today, they would most likely pity us rather than jeer at the travesty of modernism.
Regardless of the intermittent giggle at the sight of a scene or conversation that was foreign to the modern experience, people are still clearly enamored of this musical comedy, which is a considerable feat since almost no one can sit through a musical of any variety anymore. The reason for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' ability to hold up after so many decades lies in the directorial genius of Howard Hawks and the finely tuned comedic timing of Charles Lederer's script. Lederer also collaborated with Hawks and Monroe on one of their previous films, Monkey Business. The ribald nature of his writing and the double entendres peppered throughout the screenplay are able to make the film classically funny. A case in point is during one of the first scenes, when Lorelei's (Monroe) fiance comes to her dressing room to give her a diamond ring and asks, "Is it too big?" to which Lorelei quips, "It can never be too big."
Lederer's prior familiarity with Monroe's personality may also have given him the foresight to write such precise dialogue for the "character" of Lorelei, who is really just a more parodic version of Monroe. Certain lines, like, "It's awful to feel lonely. Especially in a crowd" evince the notion that she knew exactly what it meant to understand that feeling. Another acutely written line occurs when Dorothy (Russell) asks Lorelei if maybe they've put too many sleeping pills in Ernie's (the private detective who has been watching Lorelei's every move) drink, prompting Lorelei to retort, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right," an eerie prediction of her future dependency on Seconal.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is one of about six films (the others being How To Marry A Millionaire, Bus Stop, The Misfits, Some Like It Hot, and The Seven Year Itch) that showcase how talented Monroe was as an actress, not just as a sex symbol.