Thursday, July 8, 2010

How to Marry a Millionaire

This film creates much debate within the cinema community. Filmed in 1953, the movie finds three models as they search for a husband. Now, the very idea that your identity as a woman is made by your husband seems outlandish. But, in 1953, that was the belief of many women across America. I also think it is important to remember that in much of the world today this concept is as strong today as 56 years ago. So How to Marry a Millionaire provides a look at pre-feminist America.

Along with providing a look at the USA of the 1950s, this movie has some wonderful observations on sexual politics and gender issues. Because the stated goal of all 3 leading characters is to marry a millionaire, we are treated to many instances of men and women on the prowl for companionship. The screenplay's author Nunnally Johnson does an intriguing job of showing the similarities and differences of men and women in relationships. I am quite fond of Johnson's work throughout his career. He penned some terrific scripts and adaptations from early on with 'The Grapes of Wrath' through the end of his career with 'The Dirty Dozen'. Most of his scripts provide some insights into people and their relationships.

But more important than the deep-sounding issues of pre-feminism, sexual politics and gender roles, How to Marry a Millionaire is a fun movie. There are plenty of laughs to keep you entertained. And we get to gaze upon Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable for 88 minutes. That alone makes it worth a watch. The plot is simple. Our three leading ladies rent an upscale apartment from which they hope to catch a wealthy husband. Since they seem to find "gas pump jockeys and soda jerks" in their current lives, 'Schatze Page', played well by Lauren Bacall, organizes a plot to move in high society circles. They go through the ups and downs of such a plot until they each find the love they have been searching for. Of course, things never go exactly as planned, but that is all part of the fun.

One detail that I love. This movie is filled with inside jokes. For example, in one moment Lauren Bacall's character 'Schatze' says "I love older men. Take that guy in the 'African Queen'". That guy is Humphrey Bogart and she was married to him. Or, Betty Grable's character 'Loco' hears a Harry James song on the radio. She talks about how much she loves Harry James. When this was filmed, she was married to Harry James. Those kind of inside jokes just add to the fun of How to Marry a Millionaire.

This is a simple film with great actresses spouting nice writing for our entertainment. Not bad for 88 minutes.

Filmed in 1953, directed by Jean Negulsco, written by Nunnally Johnson, starring Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Rory Calhoun, William Powell, Cameron Mitchell and David Wayne. For a more detailed look at John Ford and Nunnally Johnson's masterpiece 'The Grapes of Wrath', read my earlier blog.

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