Last month TCM showcased Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I did my first #TCMParty live tweet which was entertaining to say the least (then I of course missed Niagara). As I watched the film for the ten millionth time, I couldn’t help but wonder, “why does the movie still appeal to us?”
1.) The gold digger with a heart of gold theme never really goes out of style.
Okay, hear me out. At the end of the day, no matter how much Lorelei Lee (Monroe) loves Gus Stevens (Tommy Noonan), what initially attracted her to him was the size of his wallet. This doesn’t mean their relationship is built entirely on what either superficially brings to the table (her looks, his money). But, deep down, Lorelei is just looking for love so it’s okay that the only reason she even talked to Gus in the first place was based on his wallet. We see the scenario again in a host of other popular movies, including, How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Heartbreakers (2001) and Bad Teacher (2011). Sometimes the gold digger doesn’t always end up with Richie Rich, and in those cases we see her (and it’s almost always a her) want of money was just a tool to fill some type of emotional void that’s finally fulfilled by finding her true love.
2) The relationship between Dorothy and Lorelei is surprisingly modern.
First off, I’ve seen almost every blog post about the lesbian undertones between the two of them; I’m not going down that rabbit hole. Instead, I’m focusing on the BFF motif between Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) and Lorelei. Female friendships definitely got examined in films before Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but usually romantic relationships overshadowed friendships (I am making an exception for 1939’s The Women but I wouldn’t consider it a strict comedy like Blondes). Sure, Ernie Malone (Elliot Reid) and Gus get some screen time, and both end up saving Dorothy and Lorelei in some way, but the heart of the movie is the BFF motif we also see in the likes of 9 to 5 (1980), Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (1997), Ghostbusters (2018) and pretty much any female centered comedy you can think of.
3) The story line really isn’t marriage focused.
Yes, the double wedding ending is standard 50s fare, but the whole movie before the last few minutes really deals with Lorelei and Dorothy fending for themselves. Neither character needs their romantic significant other, just their best friend. If Lorelei had gone on the witness stand, the viewer just knows she would have figured out some way to get off (or at least a super reduced sentence). Sure, the story line revolves around Dorothy finding a man and Lorelei trying to stay true to Gus, but there is so little focus on the male leads that one tends to kind of forget their part in the film. If Gus and Ernie weren’t in the story, would you really miss them? Probably not. They’re just there for the romantic undertones. If the Production Code would have allowed the girls to jump from man-to-man on the cruise ship, you would be able to keep a decent 85% of the film in tact, and the story line would be just as believable. Just replace Ernie with a different man every night and we’re set.