‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’: Marilyn’s Hawksian Musical

Howard Hawks was one of classic Hollywood’s most versatile directors. However, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was atypical even for him, as Colin Wessman notes in a list of 8 Directors Who Were a Surprisingly Great Match for the Musical, for the Collider website.

“It’s hard to tell exactly why Howard Hawks wanted to direct a musical, other than that, after establishing himself as one of the great genre directors throughout the ’30s and ‘40s, the musical was one of the last big genres for him to conquer. In the book of interviews Hawks on Hawks, he reveals that he had no interest in directing any of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ musical sequences, leaving the directing duties for those scenes to choreographer Jack Cole. Which makes it all the more surprising that the film works as well as it does, especially with its fairly simple set-up of Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe starring as a couple of friends/dancers who go on a trip aboard a ship while looking for love in vastly different ways.

Though the film is firmly entrenched in the rigid romantic norms of the 1950s, there’s still something incredibly refreshing about a film from this period about female friendship, particularly when Russell and Monroe play off each other so well. In their banter is where you get the Hawks touch, as his background in screwball comedies full of fast-talking dames makes him a perfect fit for the zippy nature of the musicals of this era. While Hawks’ camera is a little more utilitarian than the sweeping visuals of the MGM musicals like Singin’ In The Rain, the musical sequences (like the iconic ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’) are a joy due to the combination of gorgeous costumes, a brash use of technicolor, and Russell and Monroe being game for anything.”