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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Matrimonial mayhem (How to Marry a Millionaire)

So, what is this hoopla about Marilyn Monroe being the star attraction of John Negulesco's How to Marry a Millionaire? Playing a ditzy blonde, who looks gorgeous, but in the words of Schatze Page, is more of a bubblehead than both her friends in the film, Monroe will hardly convince with her performance when Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable share screen space. And, all that I hear about this romantic comedy is how Monroe did this, and how she did that... Even the DVD that I have, came with a special pamphlet on this very sensuous woman giving a crackling performance in this film! What performance?!?!
Admitted, she is breathtakingly attractive. I won't say beautiful.
For, she lacks that intelligent appeal. In fact, even after she puts on those crystals-encrusted glasses, I feel she continues being the dumb blonde. Even though Fred Denmark says, "There is a mystery. Your face gets a certain distinction...", it fails to have any effect on me. I continue being irked by her overacting and her simpering voice. She moves her luscious lips too much and rolls her eyes in an exaggerated fashion. She continues mouthing those puerile lines (that is sad, she wasn't given good lines). It's only when the film ends that I realise that she hardly has any substantial thing to do, apart from donning those stunning clothes, walking and posing like a model and nodding like a bimbo, forming the famous pout and smiling at the camera. Even her love plot with David Wayne lacks the kick. There is hardly any attitude in the onscreen character of Monroe, she stays just as blind (figuritively) as Pola Debevoise.
Her untimely demise, I admit, was really sad. But, perhaps her performance got stifled by the huge mountain of appreciation for her looks. Remembered, even today, as Hollywood's hottest sex symbol, Monroe was never taken seriously as a performer. Or rather, should we say, never given a scope to blossom into a good actor? But, the biggest question is whether she had it in her? Okay, I'm ready for the brickbats, now!!!
Three lovely golddigging models run a marriage caper to ensnare millionaires. The captain of the team is Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall is kickass), who thinks she knows the rules of the game. She takes under her wing, Pola and Loco (Betty Grable is simply adorable), after moving into a posh Sutton Place penthouse, which she has taken on lease. Schatze instructs the others that they need to lay a bear trap to enmesh a big fat one. The herd will just follow. Not able to think on their own, Loco and Pola swear by their 'intelligent' leader who is confident about her plan. She starts pawning the expensive furniture in her penthouse so that they can wear classy clothes and dine at Stork or 21. But, the bears take some time to show up...
The premise of the comedy is funny and the laughter is induced by Loco and Schatze's idiosyncracies. Bacall, with her husky voice and sultry looks, is superb. Here is a divorcee who wants to marry a millionaire because she has lost faith in gas pump jockeys. She rubbishes true love. But, little does she know that the dashing Tom Brookman who is relentlessly pursuing her, would soon make her go weak in the knees. Cameron Mitchell is smart as Brookman. And, he is just apt to tame this shrew. Thinking that he does not 'hold', Schatze keeps spurning him. For, in the vicinity is the prospective bear with his millions, J D Hadley (William Powell is so dignified). But, true love will soon beckon and play havoc with Schatze's heart. And, that too, on her wedding day!!
Bacall also gets to mouth the smartest lines: "My man is real class, he never speaks of his wealth, just refers to it", "Just drooling, all four of'em." There are many more of these to be chuckled at...
The other sweet love story concerns Loco, the model who can sink her pearlies into a succulent hotdog any time of the day. She meets an uptight businessman who is too bothered about his image. He is married but is fed up with his wife and family. Loco goes with him to his lodge in Maine expecting an Elks convention type situation. You have a funny mix-up where Grable delivers some hilarious lines: "Not with that flute", "Even if my mother did not have a single penny, she would not have disinherited me" and "Not at all, I love not to talk." She is just adorable. Her eyes are bright and she emotes really well. And, yes, she is really pretty.
Forced to halt at Maine, Loco falls in love with a handsome forest ranger played by Rory Calhoun (who does not have much of a role, I'm afraid). Initially she thinks that he is a timber businessman who is really rich, but loses hope when she learns the truth. But, good sense and love prevails and she marries her man.
Pola, blind as a bat, has an affair with Stuart, the 'blinky' but is saved when Fred Denmark shows her light. There's is a love story that looks a bit rushed.
The whole premise of this 1953 film is how true love prevails over all misconceptions and misunderstandings. The script being quite lucid, the proceedings pretty agreeable. Truely, there are many young girls who would harbour erroneous thoughts in their mind about men and marriage as Schatze, Pola and Loco. But, it is only through their experiences and good sense that they get to know that a marriage out of pretense and not love, would mean destruction and no fun at all. I also like it when Schatze admits that the man she has fallen in love with, 'a character straight out of Characterville', is a nobody. In fact, her love is not conditioned by greed or money. It is just a coincidence that Tom Brookman turns out to a millionaire!
One word about the costume designs in the film. Stupendous. Never seen such a deluge of glamour. There is a neat fashion show where pretty woman model a range of eclectic designerwear. Bacall walks in a lovely blue and pink voluminous number, Monroe stuns in a dazzling red skintight bathing suit and Grable is the epitomy of smart seduction in playful shorts. I can't get the gowns and dresses out of mind, too. Especially, Bacall's black off-shouldered one (when Hadley is lecturing her on their age difference), Monroe's green dress (when she is having a phone conversation with Stuart), Grable's purple suit (on Schatze's wedding) and of course, Monroe's dark pink shimmery gown (during the Oil Institute party). Apart from Bacall's sassy persona and Grable's spontaneuos ebullience, these girly delights made How to Marry a Millionaire quite an entertaining proposition for me...

8 comments:

  1. We don't seem to see too 'eye to eye' on this one! In my own review of How to Marry a Millionaire, I tended to lambast it, because I found it unfunny and otherwise tedious, too:

    http://dustedoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/how-to-marry-a-millionaire-1953/

    But you're right, the gowns are fabulous!

    And oh, by the way: here's a delightful bit of trivia regarding Marilyn Monroe's exaggerated diction. When they worked together in River of No Return, Robert Mitchum too found Marilyn's diction very weird. He eventually ticked her off with, "Come on, now! Let's speak like a human being!"

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  2. @Dustedoff: Ha ha right he was...She really sounds so wierd...moving her lips too much and all that. Yes, this film is not that funny like say maybe Some Like it Hot (I reviewed it earlier) but I prefer watching Grable and Bacall than Monroe. And, the men were not good also in the film. Very few scenes and no big names at all. That was unfair.
    Thanks for the comment. Now I'm off to read your review :)

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  3. I've seen slicker rom-coms than this. And ya, Monroe tends to be tediously artificial.
    Nice post, though.
    Is Awara coming next?

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  4. @Netdhaba: Tediously artificial is an understatement. She was too conscious of her looks in all her films. No wonder the acting suffered :)
    Awara? Let's see... :)

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  5. How did I miss this? Monroe as a bad actress - yes indeed! From what I've seen of her films, she shows no promise of any acting talent whatsoever. She was quite charming in her unassuming early days, but her fame seems to have led her to exaggerate all the worst aspects of her performance! I think I enjoyed this when I first watched it because I thought Monroe was playing a dumb blond for laughs, but later realised that she did the same in every film.

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  6. I haven't seen this and I don't feel like I'm missing out something except for the gowns. :-D

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  7. @Sunheriyaadein: Yes, you are not missing much. I've seen better romantic comedies. And, Monroe just simpers! Very irritating indeed...

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  8. @Bollyviewer: Yes, true you are. I've seen The Seven Year Itch and i thought she was also really dumb over there. Then in Some Like It Hot also she was the same. I guess, her fame was too much for her to flourish as a natural performer. She looks lovely, but that's about it :(

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