In the latest instalment of his series for Classic Movie Hub, Monroe biographer Gary Vitacco Robles looks at her role as diamond-loving Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which made her a global superstar.
“Marilyn Monroe’s interpretation of the role of Lorelei—with affected speech, exaggerated lip and eye movements, and deadpan delivery—provided fodder for impersonators for generations to come. The role was a perfect embodiment of the Marilyn Monroe persona and became the screen image that the public and critics would equate with the actress for the remainder of her career. Yet, what Monroe made look so natural and effortless on screen was a well-crafted performance.
Monroe engenders the audience’s sympathy by effectively projecting a perfect balance of kindheartedness and materialism. She also mastered the art of gaining laughs by pretending to be ignorant while endearing herself to the audience. Neither is an easy feat for any actress.
In an early script conference, Darryl F. Zanuck realized the necessity of the audience’s belief that Dorothy felt genuine affection for Lorelei. This bond motivates Dorothy to defend her friend in the courtroom scene near the end of the film. Ultimately, Fox appropriately cast Jane Russell to deliver Dorothy’s acerbic wisecracks. Russell was five years older than Monroe and assumed the role of her big sister during the production.
The performance elevated Monroe beyond the restraints of her pin-up persona and showed her as a full-fledged and multifaceted actress. The four minutes of her flawless breakout solo number (‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’) established her as an actress with no formal training who could sing and dance superbly in a musical comedy. Zanuck now had a formula for his star.”