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Literature / Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

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"Diamonds are a girl's best friend."

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a 1925 novel written by Anita Loos. It was adapted into a Broadway musical in 1949; the songs (written by Jule Styne and Leo Robin) included "Little Rock" and "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend." The musical version was adapted into a movie in 1953, starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. (An earlier silent movie version is lost.) A semi-sequel, Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, was released a couple of years later starring Russell and Jeanne Crain; it didn't do nearly as well as the first movie.

The story follows two showgirls, and best friends, Dorothy Shaw (Russell) and Lorelei Lee (Monroe). As it starts off, Lorelei and her fiance, Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan), were going to travel to France in order to get married. However, since Gus's father, Edmond Sr. (Taylor Holmes), disapproves of Lorelei, he prevents them from going. Despite this, she decides to go anyway, taking Dorothy along with her. Before their trip, Gus tells Lorelei to behave herself while in France or his father might find out and prevent their marriage from even happening. Sure enough, it turns out the old man has hired a detective by the name of Ernie Malone (Elliott Reid) to watch her every move.

While on the boat to Paris, Lorelei meets Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman (Charles Coburn), owner of a diamond mine. Intrigued by him, she invites him back to the girls' cabin to flirt with him. Unbeknown to them, however, Ernie spies on and takes pictures of them. Dorothy, whom Ernie is falling for, sees him and tells Lorelei. They concoct a scheme to take the film by drugging the detective and stealing it from him. However, their troubles are not over yet as the two girls soon run into money problems...

This work provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Lorelei Lee.
  • Brainy Brunette: Compared to Lorelei, Dorothy Shaw is a genius.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Gus introduces Lorelei to his father, he has trouble believing that she's the Lorelei Lee that Gus wants to marry, since he had previously mistaken a disguised Dorothy for her. Lorelei verifies her identity by pointing at her picture on a cardboard standee for one of their shows.
  • Catchphrase: Lorelei: "...a girl like I..."
    • In the film: "Thank you ever so!"
  • Costume Porn: Lorelei wears a spectacular 1950's-style strapless pink gown (with matching long gloves) during the iconic "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" number, and both Lorelei and Dorothy wear chic, high-fashion 1950's-style outfits throughout the film.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dorothy, in the best kind of fast-talking 50's manner.
  • Defecting for Love: In the end Mr. Malone quits working for Esmond Sr. for Dorothy.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Frequently. Whenever Lorelei and Dorothy strut into a room, expect half the men in it to wolf-whistle, the other half to simply gawk at them.
  • Dumb Blonde: Well, somewhat. Lorelei does say some spectacularly ditzy things and she's plenty shallow but she can be incredibly crafty, at least when it comes to manipulating people. She's about 40% Dumb Blonde, 40% Obfuscating Stupidity and 20% Genius Ditz.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Actually Averted; Lorelei and Dorothy seem about equally popular with men. If anything, Dorothy has more guys flirting with her because she's less picky.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Several of the girls' non-diamond-inlaid outfits are still pretty glittery.
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: "Diamonds are a girl's best friend."
  • Extreme Doormat: Gus Esmond, which is half the reason Lorelei likes him.
    Lorelei: He never wins an argument, he does everything I ask, and he's got the money to do it with!
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The song "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love" in the movie has Jane Russell, in a low cut top, with a bunch of half-dressed guys at the gym who steadfastly ignore her. The Celluloid Closet presents this as a textbook case of subverting the Code, and offers an alternate reason why she's ignored.
  • Gold Digger: Lorelei's principal attribute.
    Mr. Edmonds: Are you going to stand there and tell me that you're not marrying my son for his money?
    Lorelei: (outraged) It's true!
    Mr. Edmonds: Then why are you marrying him?
    Lorelei: I'm marrying him for your money!
  • Global Ignorance:
    Lorelei: Excuse me, but what is the way to Europe, France?
    Dorothy: Honey, France is in Europe.
    Lorelei: Well, who said it wasn't?
    Dorothy: Well... you wouldn't say you wanted to go to North America, Mexico.
    Lorelei: If that's where I wanted to go, I would.
  • Has a Type: Rich men for Lorelei. Tall, Dark, and Handsome for Dorothy, although Lorelei would argue "poor men" is more accurate.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: In the movie, when Lorelei attempts to escape a locked room via a porthole window, she gets stuck due to her hips being too wide.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Lorelie and Dorothy remain the closest of friends throughout the film and stay steadfastly loyal to each other. Notably, while they marry their boyfriends in a double wedding at the end of the film, the final shot is a close-up of just the two of them, demonstrating that their friendship is still the most important relationship in each of their lives.
  • Homage: Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" is one to "Ain't Anyone Here For Love?"
  • Homoerotic Subtext:
    • The famous "Ain't Anyone Here for Love?" musical number, in which muscular dudes wearing nothing but flesh-colored swim trunks dance and prance around, while Jane Russell sings about how none of them will pay attention to her, reeks of this.
    • Then there's the final shot of the movie, in which Lorelei and Dorothy are marrying their respective beaux in a double wedding. The camera zooms in to show only the two of them in their wedding dresses, making it seem as if they are marrying each other.
  • In Love with the Mark: Played with. Ernie Malone is not a hitman so much as a private detective hired to find some dirt on Lorelei. And while he falls for her best friend rather than Lorelei herself, this still creates complications for his job since he's trying to woo a girl while trying to find incriminating evidence about her best friend, and in the end he ends up Defecting for Love.
  • Jerkass: Lorelei has her moments, due to her unapologetic Gold Digger attitude towards men.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Lorelei's "A girl being pretty is like a man being rich speech" (which is how she wins over Edmonds Snr), in which she points out that she just wants all the same things with Gus that Edmonds Snr would insist upon his own daughter (if he had one) having in a husband (see the Quotes page).
  • Karma Houdini: Lorelei Lee. She never has to answer for getting caught flirting with other men while away from her fiance, nor manipulating her new beau into stealing his wife's diamond tiara for her, nor refusing to give it back until compelled by law, nor roping her friend Dorothy into her ensuing financial and legal troubles.
    • Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman. He steals his wife's diamond tiara to give to a young woman he openly flirted with in front of her, leaves the girl to face the wrath of his wife after confronted about it, then steals the tiara back from the girl just as his wife is about to press charges, then tries to leave the girl to get arrested and possibly jailed while he flees the country. In the end, he is merely forced to give it back to "Lorelei" in court so she can officially give it back to him.
  • Marry for Love: What Dorothy plans to do (eventually), much to Lorelei's disapproval.
  • Men Use Violence, Women Use Communication: The plan Dorothy and Lorelei use to get the film from Mr Malone.
    Dorothy: If we can't empty his pockets in ten minutes we're not worth-ee of the name 'woman'.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love" has Jane Russell, in a low cut top, with a bunch of half-dressed guys at the gym who steadfastly ignore her. The Celluloid Closet presents this as a textbook case of sneaking in objectionable material, and offers an alternate reason why she's ignored.
    • Olivia Newton-John did an Homage with "Let's Get Physical", and wasn't subtle about who the bodybuilders were attracted to.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Piggy, despite a couple of "I say"s and "eh what"s, doesn't sound British.
  • Nude-Colored Clothes: The athletes in "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love?" and if it weren't for the black lines you might think they were doing it in the buff. This was almost definitely intentional.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Lorelei is really good at playing the part of Dumb Blonde but she does have some brains to her, like when Dorothy needs a moment to realise Lorelei has the room overheated for a reason.
    Lorelei: I can be smart when it's important, but most men don't like it.
  • Odd Friendship: As Mr. Malone points out, it's odd that two such drastically different women (smart and sassy Dorothy verses ditzy and flirty Lorelei) can be such close friends.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Lorelei wears a pink dress for the "Diamonds" number.
  • Playful Pursuit: In But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, Lorelei describes this as the highlight of her brief career as a movie actress.
    I did not care what it was full of, so long as it was full of plenty of cute scenes where the leading man would chase me around the trunk of a tree and I would peek out at him, like Lillian Gish.
  • Pretty in Mink: Several, starting with ermine coats the girls are holding in the first scene.
  • Proper Lady:
    Lorelei: Please dear, a lady never tells that her feet hurt.
  • Really Gets Around: Dorothy Shaw (if nabbing half the Olympic swim team and inviting them to her room before the cruise even takes off is any indication), at least before she meets Mr. Malone.
  • Rule of Pool: Dorothy gets knocked into the swimming pool at the end of "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love?". This was completely accidental, one of the dancers knocked Jane Russell into the pool while diving over her and the director decided to leave it in due to Rule of Funny.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Of sorts. Why bother about all the spying if in the end it takes just a bit of Lorelei's charm to persuade Gus and his father?
  • Sisters Before Misters: Dorothy may be falling for Malone, but she'll always put Lorelei first without a moment's hesitation.
  • Something Blues: "Homesick Blues"
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Dorothy's "type," according to Lorelei. As it so happens, Ernie Malone fits the bill.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: When Lorelei gets put on trial for taking Piggy's wife's diamond tiara, Dorothy disguises herself as Lorelei and takes her place in the courthouse to buy Lorelei time while Lorelei tries to recover the tiara. One of the things she does to stall the court proceedings is to break into a reprise of "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."
  • Triumphant Reprise: The movie begins with Lorelei and Dorothy singing, "Two Little Girls From Little Rock", which details how much trouble a young woman with a simple background can have finding a decent man. They sing it again at their double wedding, but proclaim that they succeeded in finding the men of their dreams.
  • True Companions: Dorothy and Lorelei stick together through thick and thin. Especially Dorothy, who stays with Lorelei even after she's been caught stealing a diamond tiara, stays with her penniless in France after her fiance's father cuts her off for it, chooses Lorelei over Molone even after she's fallen for him, and risks jail by impersonating Lorelei when she's brought to court for the said theft.
  • The Unfair Sex: The film seems to side with Lorelei over Mr. Esmond for cancelling the girl's credit and rescinding their hotel reservation, even though the reason why this happened was because she was blatantly flirting with another man in order to take something that wasn't hers.