Marilyn Monroe Performs "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend"
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a 1953 American musical comedy film based on the 1949 stage musical of the same name. It was directed by Howard Hawks and stars Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe, with Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid, Tommy Noonan, George Winslow, Taylor Holmes and Norma Varden in supporting roles. The film was released in August, 1953.
The film is filled with comedic situations and musical numbers, choreographed by Jack Cole, while the music was written by Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Adamson, Jule Styne and Leo Robin. The songs by Styne and Robin are from the Broadway show, while the songs by Carmichael and Adamson were written especially for the film. Despite the film's title, Monroe was paid her usual contract salary of $500 a week, while Russell, the better known actress at the time, earned $200,000.
While Russell's down-to-earth, sharp wit has been observed by most critics, it was Monroe's turn as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee for which the film is often remembered. Monroe's rendition of the song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" and her pink dress are considered iconic, and the performance has inspired homages by Madonna, Beyoncé, Geri Halliwell, Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Anna Nicole Smith, Christina Aguilera, Ariana Grande, Rachel Bloom, and Miss Piggy.
Although Hawks is credited as the sole director of the film, Russell and assistant choreographer Gwen Verdon contend that Monroe's iconic musical number, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend", was actually directed by choreographer Cole. Russell said, "Howard Hawks had nothing to do with the musical numbers. He was not even there." Hawks himself confirmed as much in an interview with author Joseph McBride, "I did a musical called Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and I didn't do the production numbers. I didn't have any desire to." According to Monroe's last interview before her death, Russell was receiving $200,000 for the film, while Monroe was paid her then usual $500-per-week salary.
The film earned $5.3 million at the box office worldwide, and was the eighth highest-grossing film of 1953, with $5.1 million grossed in North America, while Monroe's next feature, How to Marry a Millionaire, was the fifth-highest.
The film received positive reviews from critics. Monroe and Russell were both praised for their performances as Lorelei and Dorothy even among those critics who were not otherwise impressed by the film; the characters have entered pop culture.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 98% based on 41 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Anchored by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell's sparkling magnetism, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a delightfully entertaining 1950s musical." German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder declared it one of the ten best films ever made.
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