Discerning Cinephiles Still Prefer Blondes 

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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Directed by Howard Hawks

Howard Hawks's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) has accrued a daunting overlay of readings and reappropriations over the years, but fortunately nothing can drown out the film's riot of color and costume, deaden the cheeringly direct-address numbers, or cancel the scene-to-scene fact of Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe's making-it-look-easy humor. Hawks and his stars revivify the hoary gold-digger premise by pushing it over the top from the opening replace-your-retinas-with-rubies Little Rock ditty. But the reputation for hyperbole can obscure the pleasures of Monroe's achievements: her breezy-studied look of wheels turning that pulls time around her (hilarious, and matched perfectly by Russell's straight-out delivery), and her haute idiolect ("Thank you ever so") and typically exquisite vocal control on a par with Judy Holliday (who rejected the role when Columbia was trying to pull the project together).

The diamonds number and Russell's Marilyn-drag deposition still knock ‘em dead, and even when it's familiar, little details jump out with every viewing: the duo's waggle with the "Learned an awful lot" line in the opening number, the way tennis rackets simply appear in Russell's hands in the Grecian gym beefcake revue, the slow-fast-slow rhythms of their Parisian cafe routine ("Crazy, mademoiselle!"), even those microscope spirogyra backgrounds in the credits.

August 6-12 at Film Forum

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