In 1955, Billy Wilder's THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH presents Marilyn Monroe in a star vehicle comedy based on a Broadway hit. Again, she's with a middle-aged man with a rather hang-dog face. He's married. But not to her. His wife and little boy have escaped the New York summer heat for a month and are away at camp. Monroe is The Girl Upstairs, a not exactly booksmart but totally lovable model and TV commercial actress. He daydreams of having an affair with her but he doesn't. He's too faithful to his wife. She tenderly jealous of the wife. She likes him. She reveals that what she really finds exciting is not the handsome macho man. She tells him she's drawn to the guy who's "kind of nervous and shy and perspiring a little...you sort of sense that he's gentle and kind and worried. That he'll be tender with you...That's what's really exciting." Her Sugar Kane will share the same sentiments after having late night supper with "Junior" in Billy Wilder's SOME LIKE IT HOT.
Marilyn Monroe was a stand-out at playing the showgirl and then getting deeper into the persona, playing the light and dark of it. There's her scene-stealing brief role as Miss Casswell in the 1950 classic, ALL ABOUT EVE. Theatre critic Addison De Witt (George Sanders) brings Miss Casswell to Margo Channing's party and introduces her as "a graduate of the Copacabana school of the dramatic arts." Follow that with Monroe's dumb-like-a-fox showgirl headliner role in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. Watch her as the patriotic American showgirl engaged in a game of comical sexual politics with a blustery and horny Eastern European regent in 1911. There are dramatic undertones. She overhears the regent's teen son plot with the Germany embassy. World War I will begin in 1914. This is 1957's THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL. She's a divorced and disillusioned showgirl in her last completed film, 1961's THE MISFITS written by Monroe's husband at the time, playwright Arthur Miller.
She was not a trained dancer like a Cyd Charisse or Leslie Caron, still Gene Kelly had high praise for Marilyn Monroe's work in dance numbers. He felt she moved like a dancer. Kelly had a cameo in Monroe's 1960 comedy with musical numbers, LET'S MAKE LOVE.
That brings me to her terrific performance in 1953's GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. The word "iconic" gets tossed around a lot nowadays. Nevertheless, her "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" number is truly iconic. We saw how it was imitated by Madonna in the 1980s for her "Material Girl" music video. To me, Monroe gave an Oscar-nomination worthy performance in this 1953 delight. She didn't get one, but she should have. Her role as Lorelei Lee was originally mentioned for Fox's queen of the 1940s, Betty Grable. Grable, a Monroe buddy, co-starred with Marilyn in 1953's HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, a comedy which utilized Monroe's talent for physical comedy.
Fox's GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES was based on the 1949 Broadway hit musical that put Carol Channing on the map. She played Lorelei Lee in the Broadway musical which was set in the 1920s. The movie fast forwarded the action to modern day. The story was adapted to fit its two stars, Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. Monroe's Lorelei Lee is a loyal best friend and a one-man gal.
For the movie, Broadway/film choreographer Jack Cole was hired. Cole danced with and choreographed Rita Hayworth numbers in TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT and GILDA. Many of his best numbers were heavy on jazz. The number's in Fox's GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES had a jazz flavor. Here is Carol Channing introducing "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" in the original Broadway cast production.
Here it is in the movie version with the song given a 1950's jazz arrangement and stylish, witty choreography from Jack Cole. His dance assistant who coached Monroe was Gwen Verdon.
Yes, Sir. Marilyn Monroe did some hard work -- singing, dancing and acting -- and make it all look easy in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. I still feel she should've been a Best Actress Oscar nominee for that brilliant 1953 musical comedy performance. The nominees were:
Leslie Caron, LILI
Ava Gardner, MOGAMBO
Maggie McNamara, THE MOON IS BLUE
Deborah Kerr, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
Audrey Hepburn, ROMAN HOLIDAY (winner).
Marilyn Monroe was never nominated for an Oscar. Carol Channing was a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for 1967's THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLE.