Monday, August 5, 2013

Ask Me a Question: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

The Autumnal Equinox (the end of summer) doesn't occur until 9.22 but this past weekend was my last outdoor screening of the season.  You're probably all used to reading about manly, macho men and ways to be kick ass but Saturday was a change of pace for the lady with 1953's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Oscars Outdoors.

Starring the blonde myth herself, Marilyn Monroe and buxom outlaw brunette Jane Russell, GPB is a fun time at the movies filled with humor, musical numbers and a whole lotta double entendres.  Directed by Howard Hawks...wait, Howard Hawks?  You mean the guy who made John Wayne a star with Red River?  The guy who produced The Thing From Another World and directed everyone from Robert Mitchum to Clark Gable to Humphrey Bogart to James Caan?  Yup.  I guess macho, manly and kick ass are never far from the mind of Dammaged Goods.

Before the movie, a renowned figure in the dance world (sorry I'm not there to cover, just enjoy) presented a few slides about GPB choreographer, Jack Cole, an exotic looking gent who was one of Hollywood's top dancers/choreographers/instructors.  Cole worked with Monroe officially on three films and unofficially on several more.  Then, we were treated to the presence of a guy (sorry again) who looked like Ringo Starr but had actually danced in the film.  If GPB was released in 1953, that means he had to be in his 70's and damn did he look good for his age.  As a young dancer, he prepped for the famous "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" number for 4 weeks and the sequence itself took 3 days to shoot.  He shared a quick story about a mistake that was kept in the picture.  During Russell's, "Anybody Here For Love?", she crouches down as members of the men's Olympic team dive over her into a pool.  One came in too low and knocked her in.  He also made a point to mention how hard Monroe worked, her professionalism and her surprisingly quiet nature.

With the sun down and a surprisingly chilly August wind kicking in, it was time to start the show.  Several bizarre trailers and clips played including Wild and Wonderful, starring Tony Curtis opposite a poodle with human tendencies.  Then it was time.  Blondes opens with a musical number and introduces us to Monroe's Lorelei Lee and Russell's Dorothy Shaw.  Lee is looking to marry up and has the perfect target in a nebbish, bespectacled type who gets woozy from a kiss.  The duo hitch a ride on a cruise to Europe where private investigator/buff Olympians/young millionaires/diamond tiaras/straight vodka hijinks ensue.

Monroe is endearingly sweet as the dumb but maybe smart Lorelei which is balanced out by Russell's more aware, primal and simple living Shaw.  Hawks gives the two women all of the power in the film as they're the commotion of every crowd, the main attraction at every show and the desire of every man.  Their beauty might be on display but it's their charm, wit, show-womanship and confidence that keeps us interested.

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