Seven Days of Marilyn Monroe Day Two brings us to How to Marry a Millionaire, disc two in the Forever Marilyn: Blu-Ray Collection. This film is from 1953 with three of the most memorable actresses of all time. It is a romantic comedy times three as each of the leading ladies is looking for love, whether they know it or not. This was the first motion picture filmed in Cinemascope, and was the first feature film to be shown on prime time network television.
Sidenote: I forgot how long the openings are to older films. My daughter freaks out during eighties movie as she has had to sit through long intros. I can sympathize with her after the opening here. It is symphonic, but looong.
In How to Marry a Millionaire, Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall), Loco Dempsey (Betty Grable) and Pola Debevoise (Marilyn Monroe) rent a penthouse that belongs to Freddie Denmark (David Wayne). Mr. Denmark is out of the country indefinitely due to a little tiff with the IRS, which works out well for the three women as they can take full advantage of his status and his furniture, which they promptly begin selling to fund their husband hunting.
Marilyn gets to show her comedic chops in this film with her character Pola, the flighty and, typical to Marilyn, daft chick, though I think that title lends itself more to Grable this go-round. Her character desperately needs to wear glasses and has horrible sight, but refuses to wear them in public as she doesn’t believe she can find a man this way. I can relate to her disdain for glasses as I have worn them since before I even started school and they were the bane of my existence for so many years. I adore her glasses in this film though, as well as her wardrobe, but I don’t think Marilyn has done a film in which I don’t envy her clothing. Lauren Bacall plays a somewhat steely woman who refuses to let a man in unless he’s got some serious money. She had a bad experience with a pump jockey who married her despite already being married and stole from her, which turned her off to searching for love and has her looking for money instead. Betty Grable’ Loco is just looking for love…and money, but she has so much heart you know that love has to win out.
The film starts with Pola and Schatze as a duo, with Pola wanting to bring in a third member in Loco. Since Schatze is wary of bringing another woman into their fold, Pola proves Loco’s worthiness by sending her out to get food for them with only a quarter. Loco proves resourceful when she makes it back to the penthouse with a man and bag full of groceries, acting as though she didn’t plan the whole thing. The man is Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell) who is immediately drawn to Schatze, but she will have no part of it. She sees him as beneath her and as having now prospects, but knows nothing about him. She is definitely the ringleader and is working hard to hold them all together, keep them all on the right track with their conquests, or so she thinks. She looks right over Brookman who is kind of a big deal. The women are planing the best way to meet wealthy men as they are not wealthy themselves.
The performances in this movie are second to none. Marilyn seems to be more at ease among this cast and matched well in her costars, Bacall and Grable. Seeing the three women on screen made me nostalgic for the times with my own best friends, ya know before marriage and kids and real life. The men in the film hold their own as well. J.D. and Schatze are well matched, so much so that you almost forget how much of an age difference there is between the two. The contrast of the tumultuous relationship between Schatze and Tom adds a great dynamic to the film. Bacall is truly the star and the focus of the film with her strong presence and den mother attitude, not to mention the love triangle that forms around her. Eben’s innocent, down to earth manner is a great compliment to Loco’s dramatic, theatrical nature. And of course, Denmark’s oddities fit well with Pola’s own issues.
The comedic moments and timing hit well and flow with the storyline fantastically. Marilyn’s constant stumbles and running into walls, mistaking objects for something they aren’t shows a physically comedic side not typical to the starlet. Grable’s character’s misadventures first with a married man and then with her millionaire forest ranger are classic and play out beautifully. The subtle humor behind Denmark and Pola’s first encounters is executed perfectly by both Monroe and Wayne.
This film left a smile on my face. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed How to Marry a Millionaire before sitting down with this film again. The camaraderie between the three women, their quest to find wealthy over love and their eventual decision to forego their original mission in the name of true love may make it somewhat predictable, but also makes it that much more loveable. It’s an alternate version of a fairy tale, but the kind I would rather my own daughter buy into.
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