Movie Set Fashion…Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
There are a few Marilyn Monroe movies that stick out more than others, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is definitely one of them! I call it a Marilyn movie, but it was just as much a Jane Russell movie as well, in fact, I like Jane a bit more in this show, but the fact is, when you’re next to Marilyn, the spotlight is most definitely skewed towards her.
Do I need to say “spoiler alert” for a movie that came out in 1953? You’ve had 63 years to see this…if you haven’t, it’s on Netflix again, as of this review.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starts out with a one-two puch of beauty and RED!
These “Two Little Girls from Little Rock” do their song and dance number in matching William Travilla designed gowns, complete with massive feathered headdresses, and covered in squiggles of sequins.
As a side note, Marilyn’s dress sold at Debbie Reynolds’ 2011 costume collection auction for $1.44 million.
Not sure what happened to Jane’s dress. That ol’ rag.
Dorothy Shaw (Jane) and Lorelei Lee (Marilyn) are lounge singers who head out on a transatlantic cruise to Paris. Lorelei is engaged to Gus Esmond, a nerdy rich fellow with a controlling father, who hires a private detective to keep an eye on suspected gold digger Lorelei.
The girls have some lovely day wear in this first on-ship scene. Lorelei has a smart purple outfit with peekaboo cuts in the top, and a wonderful skirt with pleating and a peaked waist. Gold cuffs worn high on the arm match the darker purple belt and dangly hoop earrings. We see more of it later.
Dorothy has a smart pant and top set with wide set halter straps, and THAT COAT, with a wide flared hem and a collar in bold yellow. Dorothy’s Grecian inspired earrings play well in the next scene with all the Olympians, but you might not even notice them because, well….you’ll see
Notice the gal behind them, in her smart black dress with full skirt and Asian influenced hat? There’s a lot of great costuming on the extras and background actors. Not nearly as bright or beautiful as the stars, but worth notice.
Here Lorelei bribes the maitre’d to put a young, wealthy, eligible bachelor at their dinner table for Dorothy.
The chosen man ends up being a 12 year old. It doesn’t work out. Sorry kid. Might have made for a heck of a school boy’s story 5 years later, though.
Dorothy is given some pretty good spectator access to the Olympians. She sings asking if there’s “Anyone Here For Love” amongst scantily clad fellows in a grand tribute to exercise and the stretch-and-stay-in-place qualities of Lastex fabric.
She may be implying more than love.
Her chorus line of nearly naked men is very bold for the 50s.
Notice those earrings?
Um, there were earrings?
The girls enjoy some cocktails and dancing, where they meet Lord and Lady Beakman, owners of a diamond mine. Lady Beakman isn’t shy about showing off the goods.
Apparently she’s not afraid of being jumped, robbed, and thrown overboard. Ahh, simpler times!
This ship has quite the dress code. Lorelei in vivid orange chiffon with dangling jewels at the bust. Dorothy opts for midnight blue sequins.
To quote click bait articles, “jaws dropped”.
Dorothy hits it off with the private detective, Malone, who uses this new access to watch Lorelei closer. The nerve!
The next night the new couple see Lorelei dancing with “Piggy” Beakman, wearing a pleated, shimmering, metallic gold dress with halter neck.
I’ve read that Travilla designed the halter style top cut lower than the censors liked, so the song and scene were cut severely.
The powers that be opted instead to only to show Marilyn from the back as she dances, which is more like a tushy shimmy. Yeah, that’s not titillating at all!
The next day, Dorothy is taking a fabulous play suit and jacket out for a walk when she sees Malone spying on Lorelei and Piggy taking pictures through the port hole. The girls are on to him!
The girls must trick him to get the film back. What better way than with drinks and gowns!
Dorothy goes for strapless taffeta with some grade-A draping and boning. Lorelei goes for the glam matador look, with squiggling soutache over a wiggle skirt draped with satin train, and square shouldered crop jacket and a monster brooch at the neckline.
Lorelei shows the images to Piggy, wearing a skin tight wiggle dress with wide cinch belt, repeating the high gold cuffs from the purple outfit.
They don’t know, though, that Malone has bugged the room. And by bugged, I mean a suitcase holding a reel-to-reel that just happens to record that exact moment. It’s very convenient.
Travilla was told to “cover up” Marilyn, to avoid over sexualizing her in the wake of some early nude photos being discovered. I think he may have been thumbing his nose at the censors with his clever draping and curve hugging tailoring.
Confrontation! This smart green number is made for telling off your lover. The hips have a curve accenting fold over drape, making the waist dramatically tiny. The neck has a bright white epaulette inspired treatment, with big button accents.
The ship docks and the girls are in Paris and must shop! Dior, Schiapparelli, Lelong, Balenciaga! The joy is fleeting, though, as their line of credit and hotel reservations are cancelled by Mr. Esmond, as he thinks he’s been jilted by Lorelei, based on Malone’s tapes.
On top of that, Lady Beakman thinks Lorelei stole her diamond tiara, gifted to Lorelei by Piggy.
This calls for a song!
These girls land on their feet, though, starring in a lush stage show.
Lorelei sings “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” just in time for former fiancée Gus Esmond to catch the show. Taylor Swift didn’t originate the song about your ex post breakup burn.
She wears a masterpiece of a dress in bright pink silk satin with a black accented bow at the back. This scene is another iconic look that has been the inspiration for tributes and parodies, from Barbie to Madonna to Halloween costumes and even a few drag queens!
Several misunderstandings occur in the case of the missing tiara, and authorities are called to question Lorelei. Dorothy disguises herself as Lorelei, who has been brought before a judge by the insurance investigator, buying time for the real Lorelei to get money from Gus to pay for the now-missing tiara.
Malone, in communication with both Mr. Esmond, Sr, and Piggy Beakman, brings everyone to the courtroom, along with the tiara Piggy had stolen back from Lorelei.
We find Dorothy buying time by doing a full song and dance number. With complete unseen orchestra. I can assume all French courtrooms have unseen orchestras.
He helps Dorothy get Lorelei off the hook when he realizes Dorothy has feelings for him, as well.
Everything is resolved, and “Lorelei” is let go. The real Lorelei convinces Mr. Esmond that she loves his son, Gus.
She is accused of just being after money, but replies smartly: “Aren’t you funny? Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You might not marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness doesn’t it help? And if you had a daughter, wouldn’t you rather she didn’t marry a poor man? You’d want her to have the most wonderful things in the world, and be very happy. Why is it wrong for me to want those things?”
She is dressed again in a curve hugging dress with an accented bust. A fantastic bolero jacket with pointed cuffs and high collar steals the show, and once again squiggle soutache is used as an accent.
There is not enough squiggle soutache in the world these days.
Lorelei must have been convincing in getting Mr. Esmond’s approval, and Dorothy must have forgiven Malone, because we’re back on the steamer ship, this time at a wedding. Both girls got their man, and their diamonds, and the whole crew is there in attendance.
Who’s driving the boat!?
Matching lace and pleated chiffon dresses!
And they all lived happily ever after.