Monroe and Russell at their best
by Ruby Yang
Marilyn Monroe is perhaps Hollywood’s most famous actress. From her signature blonde hair to her infamous skirt blowing up, everyone knows the name Marilyn Monroe. And it’s all thanks to her breakout role as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes—the film that first made her a household name. Interestingly enough, however, Monroe was not the original star of the film despite being the blonde. Instead, her co-star Jane Russell had been the star. Nonetheless, it was in this movie that Marilyn Monroe caught the attention of and became beloved by all. Released in 1953, the movie follows the story of the engaged Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) who accompanied by her best gal pal Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) on a cruise ship to France, is followed by a private detective hired by her fiancée’s wealthy and distrusting father. Being a showgirl, the father believes that she is only marrying his son for his money. As a result, he is desperately trying to prove that she is nothing but a gold-digger.
Naturally, once the ship set sails, there are hilarious mishaps and misconstrued situations. The film, being a musical, also has several memorable musical numbers, the most famous being “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” which Madonna famously recreated in her 1984 hit “Material Girls”. Overall, the film is a typical musical comedy of the era. There’s your typical slapstick comedy, dance sequences, and of course, happy ending. While formulaic, it is a formula that works. From beginning to end, the movie is cheery and entertaining despite having a basic (and predictable) plot. But perhaps what makes this movie so great is the dynamics between Lorelei and Dorothy. With Lorelei being materialistic and Dorothy being the complete opposite, one would think these two women would not get along. And yet somehow they make the perfect pair. Where Lorelai is all about sophistication, Dorothy is instead the sassy friend who is all about having a good time. The two personas—along with Monroe’s and Russell’s portrayal of the characters— complement each other perfectly. It is almost as if Monroe is Lorelei Lee and Russell is Dorothy Shaw. No one else could have played their roles.
Just watch the scene in which Jane Russell imitates Lorelei Lee. Although Russell excellently plays the character exactly as Monroe, it just isn’t the same. Instead it is Marilyn as Lorelei and Jane as Dorothy that makes the movie a great comedy. Altogether,Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a delightfully fun comedy and spectacular musical that—despite being famous for Marilyn Monroe—is a classic in its own right that still holds up today thanks to its catchy tunes and superb acting by Monroe and Russell.