One recent evening I was browsing Netflix, waiting for my sweetheart to come home, and I came across Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I remembered seeing bits of it on TV when I was little, although the only part I remembered clearly was when Marilyn Monroe's character, Lorelei Lee, meets the owner of a diamond mine and fantasizes a big old diamond where his head would be. I must have found that pretty funny when I was a kid, because that's all that stuck with me, other than a general impression of silliness.
I'd just finished a long and sort of bruising day at the day job. I was in the mood for silly. I zapped it to my TV and settled back. And from the opening number--"Two Little Girls from Little Rock"--I was in a state of wow.
This isn't a movie review, because I unabashedly adore this movie. Yes, the male stars are completely forgettable. Yes, the plot is entirely predictable--its main concern being the number of skin-tight outfits it can smoosh our heroines into. (Marilyn's co-star is Jane Russell, the actress for whom Howard Hughes engineered a new kind of underwire bra to achieve the exact right cleavage for his movie The Outlaw.) Yes, it has dialogue like this:
Anonymous Male Character 1: (gesturing at Marilyn and Jane)"If this ship sinks, which one would you save?"
Anonymous Male Character 2: "Those girls couldn't drown!"
And yes, Marilyn does get stuck climbing through a porthole.
It's that kind of movie. Dumb. Cynical. (Have you ever really listened to the lyrics of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend"?) And silly beyond all belief.
And yet. Love, love, love. Jane Russell is at her wisecracking best. Marilyn's Lorelei Lee is absolute perfection. If it's true that it takes a smart actor to play a dumb character, Marilyn must have been a freaking genius.
Before this, I've never seen an entire Marilyn Monroe movie. For some reason, I had the impression that mostly she stood around and looked...well, like Marilyn. Before this, whenever I thought about Marilyn Monroe, I mostly thought about drugs and Kennedys and tragic death. But when she launched into...
"A kiss on the hand may be quite continental..."
...I literally got goosebumps. There's a reason that performance is iconic, and it's not because of the dress, or the platinum hair, but because Marilyn was just insanely talented.
I realize everyone else in the world is probably already aware of this. I'm embarrassed to admit it was a revelation to me.
I'm a newfound Marilyn fan. And if you see me driving around, singing in my car, it'll either be "Two Little Girls From Little Rock" or "Ain't Anyone Here for Love" (which, BTW, if you thought beefcake was a recent invention, think again), or "Bye Bye Baby," or the queen of them all, "Diamonds."
Every last cynical, scintillating syllable of it.