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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Marilyn Monroe in jewels and gloves.
April 23, 2022 - 7:30 pm

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

U.S., 1953

“Do you realize, young woman, that you’re the first American writer ever to poke fun at sex?” According to Anita Loos in her memoir, Kiss Hollywood Good-by (1974), this accusation was proclaimed by cultural critic and journalist H.L. Mencken as he finished reading her manuscript, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Intimate Diary of a Professional Lady, which he refused to bring to the pages of The American Mercury for fear of offending his readers. Loos, herself a brunette, wrote Blondes in a fury to vent her anger over the intelligent men in her life she witnessed turn into absolute simps near platinum ‘dos. First published in Harper’s Bazaar in 1925, the next six issues continued to feature the travails of an unscrupulous gold-digger Lorelei Lee, which alone doubled the magazine’s circulation. Lorelei’s wildly popular diaries were next published as a complete novel, which was on its 17th printing by the end of 1926.

Adapted into a silent in 1928 starring Buck Henry’s mother Ruth Taylor and a smash Broadway production in 1949, Howard Hawks’ vibrant 1953 take is the definitive filmed version for the sad reason that Paramount’s 1928 production is now considered a lost film. Much ink has been spilled and adoration piled on Marilyn Monroe’s iconic turn as Lorelei that little new ground can be tread here, except to highlight the pure joy of hearing Loos' original words adapted by celebrated screenwriter Charles Lederer (His Girl Friday, Ocean's Eleven) in the breathy voice of one of America’s most idolized stars. That Loos was alive and well at age 65 to see this adaptation realized, considered the last credit in her filmography, should make our enjoyment of this classic cinematic treasure even more delightful.

35mm, color, 91 min. Director: Howard Hawks. Screenwriter: Charles Lederer. Based on the musical by Joseph Fields and Anita Loos. With: Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn.