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.

Happily blogging about old movies and using the royal "We".

51 Comment on “How to Make a Female Buddy Film

  1. Pingback: The Unexpected Blogathon Has Arrived – Taking Up Room

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