How to Make a Female Buddy Film

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell have Arrived. Image: flickr

Do you watch buddy films?

If you’re not familiar with them, here’s a partial definition from Wikipedia:

A buddy film portrays the pairing of two people, often the same sex, historically men. A friendship between the two people is the key relationship in a buddy film. The two people often come from different backgrounds or have different personalities, and they tend to misunderstand one another.

Random examples include: The Blues Brothers (1980), Lethal Weapon (1987), Dumb and Dumber (1994) and Shanghai Noon (2000).

We just discovered an unusual buddy film, from director Howard Hawks, told from the perspective of women. It’s the 1953 musical comedy, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Full Disclosure: We avoided this film for years. Reason: We felt it would be a schmaltzy musical with a dumb woman run amok, and a smart friend/babysitter chasing after her. It’s not like we’ve never seen that in a Hollywood film before.

Plus, we adore the clever 1925 novel by screenwriter Anita Loos. The novel is the “diary” of a shrewd American gold digger, and we felt the film could not be worthy.

We were wrong.

When we finally watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, we were unprepared for a smart, stylish film with laugh-out-loud lines.

We did not expect to love it.

Monroe demonstrates a snake killing method. Image: GlamAmor

What? You’re not convinced this is a buddy film? Well, let’s take a closer look.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is about two nightclub singers (Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell) who sail to Europe. Monroe’s character, a woman with a sixth sense for wealth, is travelling to Paris to force her wealthy boyfriend (Tommy Noonan) to follow her and propose.

Russell plays her friend, a wise-cracking woman who’s practical in all areas, except one: She has a weakness for poor men.

These two women are best friends who Look Out for each other. There’s no competition between them, only genuine concern. For example, Monroe worries that Russell will end up poverty-stricken. She gently, but firmly, tells her friend, “I want you to find happiness, and stop having fun.”

They appreciate each other’s strengths. In one scene, Monroe thinks Noonan has come to their nightclub performance with an engagement ring. Russell, with a mix of irony and admiration, says, “I think you’re the only girl in the world who can stand on a stage, with a spotlight in her eye, and still see a diamond inside a man’s pocket.”

These women are a Team. When they arrive in Paris, they discover their funds have been cut off. Not only that, Monroe has been accused of theft. But Russell doesn’t desert her friend; they’re In This together.

Monroe gives us a woman who is both naive and cunning. As her character says, “I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.” Rumour has it Monroe herself suggested this line.

As for Russell, she has a hilarious scene where she mimics Monroe’s famous number, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, complete with blonde wig and breathless voice – but she does it in a way that doesn’t disrespect Monroe’s performance.

This portrayal of female friendship is one Russell and Monroe developed off-screen, too.

Russell ain’t buying it. Image: Giphy

Of course, half the fun of this film is the wardrobe, designed by William Travilla.

Travilla is best known for his wardrobe designs for Marilyn Monroe, but he had an impressive fanbase of Hollywood actresses, including Ann Sheridan, Lana Turner, Lauren Bacall and Faye Dunaway. His career spanned four decades, from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Even if you haven’t seen Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, you’re familiar with these two iconic gowns:

(Just because it’s a buddy film doesn’t mean the characters can’t have fabulous clothes, right?)

Have you, like us, been putting off watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? Learn from our mistake, and watch this ASAP. You won’t be disappointed.

Notes

  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was first adapted to the screen in 1928. It’s considered a lost film, meaning no known copies exist.
  • The 1949 Broadway musical, starring Carol Channing, ran for 740 performances.
  • This post is part of THE UNEXPECTED BLOGATHON hosted by Taking Up Room.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: starring Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn. Directed by Howard Hawks. Written by Charles Lederer. Twentieth Century-Fox, 1953, Technicolor, 91 mins.

Advertisements

51 comments

  1. Fun review! I don’t know why I’ve held off watching this for so long, but based on your recommendation, I need to give it a shot. It’s a shame that the 1928 version is lost. It would’ve been fascinating to compare and contrast.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great unexpected treat. I haven’t watched this in years, but I recall how pleased I was with the ladies and their relationship. The whole thing has terrific lines and great comic timing. I’ll get to it again soon.
    PS: Look up Ginger Rogers in that gold Travilla gown from Dreamboat. He reworked it for Monroe and I think both gals look fab.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great take on my all-time favorite movie musical. Marilyn and Jane are sexy and smashing, and theirs is most definitely a buddy film. As a fellow blogger once pointed out to me, the movie never stoops to the duo having a catfight in order to generate conflict for the movie — they are buddies through and through.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The first time I watched this movie was back when I was in high school because, at the time, i was obsessed with anything Marilyn Monroe-related. I came for Marilyn, but I stayed for Jane Russell – she was superb in this film! They both were, but Russell’s one-liners absolutely killed me haha! Thank goodness you finally decided to give this film a shot, because can you imagine having missed out on seeing it for the rest of your life?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this movie. It’s so much fun. Never thought of it as a female buddy buddy movie but that’s exactly what it is. Not like the awful new version of, let’s say, Ghostbusters. My friends made me watch that under threats of violence and I still haven’t forgiven them for it. I considered that cruel and unusual punishment. I had to go home and watch a classic movie to get the bad taste out of my mouth afterwards.

    I think How to Marry a Millionaire could also fall into the buddy buddy comedy genre.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! Your account of the new Ghostbusters made me laugh out loud. It’s a good thing classic movies survive as antidote!

      You’re right re: How to Marry a Millionaire as a Buddy Film. It never occurred to me, but I totally agree.

      Like

  6. I first saw this years ago but, like you, was skeptical beforehand. Fell completely in love with it. What perfection. Later researched it for a blog post on MM and found out that it was Howard Hawks’ idea to cast her, that he recognized her potential for comedy and her possibilities as a creature of fantasy, etc. I think Jane Russell is fabulous in the movie, but as far as Marilyn goes, this was the perfect vehicle to superstardom for her. On point, though, it’s also a great “buddy film,” something I hadn’t thought about ’til now, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank heavens for Howard Hawks who saw that potential in Marilyn. She has terrific comedic timing, doesn’t she? She and Russell make a terrific team, and I like knowing they had a good relationship off-screen. I feel foolish for avoiding this film for so long – doh!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As much as I love movies I know very little about them. I don’t even know anything about new movies, let alone old movies (from a country I didn’t grow up in). Thus, I can’t be sure I perceive it correctly, but does it look like things (settings, actors, dresses) are more beautiful in them than in modern movies? What a sparkly gem! I’ll try to watch it as soon a possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This one has been on my favorites list for a long time. It’s smarter than it should be. It’s feminist, but not as “in your face” as it could be. The women are clever and calculating without being cruel. Jane Russell’s humor is funny in the way that you know her character has been hurt in the past. The costumes are fantastic, the songs are catchy and classic. It’s the sort of movie that should be watched with a great dessert.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve heard so much hype about this film but I had no idea it was a buddy movie–I’ll have to check it out. I think my favourite female buddy movie to date is The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I can definitely see this as a buddy film! I really enjoyed watching Marilyn and Jane together, and I think I appreciated it all the more because of the focus on their female friendship versus most of Marilyn’s other roles where she seems somewhat alienated from the other women on screen. And agreed – the costumes are fantastic!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I liked this movie a lot, and your review makes me want to rewatch this. Jane Russell is superb, showing how good a comedienne she was, in special when she mimics Monroe. Their friendship is goals!
    Kisses!
    Le

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve never seen the film either, but now I’m going to have to. I love your buddy angle–that’s so true. It’s also cool that this film seemed to give Marilyn more to do than just being a bombshell. I wish she could have done more like it. Thanks again for joining the blogathon, and for getting your review in early! I enjoyed reading it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I did watch the movie! First of all, it was REALLY shiny😍 Also, I didn’t know Monroe spoke with this accent (or was it just for the movie?). I tried to watch Jackie, the modern movie about Kennedy’s wife (I couldn’t finish it, I think it was really bad), and when Jackie is being filmed there for some TV program she also puts on this very distinct accent.

    Well back to the topic. I couldn’t believe the attitude though, and the fact that only a few decades ago it was accepted and liked. Silly blondes that are just after diamonds and rich husbands… Oh. my. god. But anyway, I’m so happy I watched it! Thank you for helping me discover it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! I’m glad you saw this super-shiny movie. As you said, it hasn’t aged well in some ways, but I really liked the portrayal of friendship between Monroe & Russell.

      As for the movie about Jackie Kennedy, I hear you!

      Like

Start Singin', Mac!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.