Marilyn Vs the American Gold Digger

A promotional still from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes graces the cover of cultural historian Brian Donovan’s new book, American Gold Digger: Marriage, Money, and the Law from the Ziegfeld Follies to Anna Nicole Smith. Tracing the term for a seductive, avaricious female back to the 1920s, when Anita Loos published her novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Donovan also considers how Marilyn’s definitive performance as Lorelei Lee (and as another ditsy social climber in How to Marry a Millionaire) both humanised and reinforced the stereotype for a post-war generation. While for Marilyn the gold-digger was just a role, Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith pushed that trope to the limit in the 1990s, by infamously wooing an elderly billionaire and later dying in tragic circumstances.

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