Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

There were Technicolor pictures made before Howard Hawks's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and there were Technicolor pictures made after it, but I don't think there is one that is MORE of a Technicolor picture than this one.

I MEAN. Have you ever seen such red? Even Dorothy's ruby slippers don't come close to this. And Hawks (and DP Harry J. Wild) knows just the best ways to make sure the colors of costume designer Travilla's glorious costumes really pop:

Put them in front of neutral colors...

...or in front of contrasting colors.

The film is just saturated with color everywhere you look.... except for one VERY important scene:

Yes, indeed, the (in)famous "Is Anybody Here For Love?" number is beige, beige, beige, the only other color being Jane Russell's black outfit, red lips, and turquoise earrings. The men almost literally become furniture for her!

But back to the film's explosion of color, which is noticeably absent for one of its most famous numbers, and quite notably present in its other most famous number.

Yes, in case you were unaware, this is the Marilyn Monroe movie that contains the "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" number that has become so iconic and so associated with Miss Monroe that anyone and everyone has tried to imitate it. Of course, each has become iconic in different ways (most notably Madonna's), but this is the capital-L Legendary version.

The thing is, it shouldn't work. That pink dress against that red backdrop should be tacky beyond belief, especially with that ridiculous amount of costume (one assumes) jewelry. But somehow, it isn't. It's just another example of Hawks's masterful use of color in this movie. In particular, I noticed it in my choice for Best Shot.

It's those hearts. They are the exact same red as the background. They practically blend right in, and that's the point. There's Marilyn, with her angelic halo of blonde hair and bright pink dress and - most importantly - glittering jewels, singing about how much she loves diamonds. As she's said numerous times before, she doesn't care about love nearly as much as she cares about money. So the background for this number - which she is performing for her ex - HAD to be red, the color of love. And she herself HAD to be in pink, that girliest of all colors. And of course, there HAD to be heart-shaped props that practically become part of the background, because she doesn't care about love. And of course this particular shot had to be framed just so, a frame of red around a frame of black around a frame of red, pointing your eye right to.... well, what else? The title of the song! The center of the frame (I measured) is right underneath her mouth, leading you to be looking right at that diamond necklace framing that gorgeous face. It's quite genius, actually, and shows a tremendous level of collaboration among the filmmaking team that we know happens all the time, but of which we so rarely get to see such pure examples. That's why this one is a scene - and a film - for the ages.

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Also, what with the Absolutely Fabulous movie coming out soon, please enjoy this bit of French & Saunders. We are all about the synergy here at Dancin' Dan on Film:

Part One
 Part Two


  1. Great choices! And your Best Shot is so well judged, love that you measured the distance to arrive at the conclusion that her necklace is dead center! That shows the craftmanship that was put into the film. I don't know if there is a bad choice in the entire picture. It's not just that the whole movie is a color explosion with two brilliant lead performances but it's bench is so deep as well.

    Charles Coburn is hysterical as Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman, Norma Varden nails her little vignette as Lady Beekman (and her hat!), and the scenes between Marilyn and George Winslow as Henry Spofford III are comedic gold.

    I adore Tommy Noonan as the lovably goofy Gus Esmond. He had a good run during this period what with this and playing Judy Garland's best friend Danny the next in A Star is Born but then his career sort of petered out into lower level stuff, I guess he and Tony Randall were in competition for the same roles and Tony had the better luck. He had some interesting show biz family interconnections. His half brother was John Ireland who was married to Joanne Dru whose brother was Peter Marshall (of Hollywood Squares fame) who was Tommy's comedy partner for years (they were a sort of minor league Martin & Lewis)!

    Even the arrival of Gus's father, played to perfection by Taylor Holmes, lands just right because of how expertly it's both played and shot. By the way that's the scene where I think Marilyn looks her best, that deep blue dress flatters her so much, both the color and design.

    1. Tommy Noonan is very endearing as Esmond. It's been a while since I've seen The Celluloid Closet, so I don't remember if the character factored into the discussion about this film or if it was all about Jane's big number, but watching the film this time I was seeing all kinds of signs that he was gay - from the way he acts in his first scene, to how he looks longingly away from Lorelei when saying goodbye - towards the Olympic athletes in the next room, and of course, his desire to get away from his father. It's probably a stretch but I couldn't get it out of my head.

      I also love Norma Varden doing her best Dame Edith Evans/Wendy Hiller as Lady Beekman. And young Master Spofford made me chortle with laughter whenever he was onscreen.

      I also agree about that blue dress on Marilyn - best thing she wore in the whole movie, maybe only after the gold dress she appears in for a hot second.

  2. This is such a great movie and equal in comedy and musical. Russell and Monroe became friends on set and off when Monroe didn't have many friends at all. You are so right regarding the colours and the styling of it. One of my favourite scenes is when the 2 gals sing they are from Little Rock at the corner Cafe. I love Charles Coburn as well....he's such a great actor

    1. I love that scene, too! Especially since there hadn't been a single song in the previous 40 minutes - and what a fun number it is!