Comedy film

Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?

The 1001 films list has a lot of ponderous, significant films, but it’s also pretty well stocked with fun movies. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes falls into the latter category, and resoundingly so. This isn’t one that explores a universal truth (despite the title) or one that forces you to think. Even its humor is on a superficial level.

Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful film: fast-paced, funny and colorful, with just enough music to call itself a musical and even an all-time famous song.

Of course, the film is famous for Marilyn and remembered for Marilyn. But…

But she definitely isn’t the female lead in this film I would have chosen if forced to choose. Her throaty, sex-kitten style in this particular movie makes one want to send her into exile in a remote corner of Bhutan (as a civilized alternative to bashing her with a baseball bat, which I hear is frowned upon). It’s just unbearably dumb and looks even worse when cast alongside Jane Russell’s wonderful character who is truly attractive. In fact, she did the same character better in her noir days.

So, in my case, I’d say gentlemen don’t prefer blondes. I’d even go out on a limb and say that most intelligent males of this generation would have chosen Russell over Monroe in this particular instance unless they’d truly been bedazzled by Marilyn’s looks (admittedly, that is pretty likely).

Why do I tell you all of this? Because it’s important for you to know that the most memorable part of the whole film is when Russell impersonates Marilyn in a courtroom scene (wearing a blond wig) and does a sarcastic take on the bubbly blonde that is absolutely for the ages. It’s so well done that it almost comes out as mean-spirited. And since there is no evidence of Russell disliking Monroe, the problem is that Marilyn’s character was just too stupid to believe.

The contrast with the other notable sudden stardom of the era – that of Audrey Hepburn – is striking… with Hepburn being the almost perfect innocent.

That’s not a knock on the film by the way. The character is perfect for the role, and an excellent satirization of a certain kind of woman (who still exists today, albeit in a slightly different form). This is one to watch and treasure for what it is: a bubbly comedy that stands the test of time well. I’d recommend it.

As a final comment, it’s interesting to note that, as a musical, it’s very different from the extravaganzas of the thirties, which smaller set pieces. Many of the songs caught me by surprise, so I guess they could have been more seamlessly integrated. It doesn’t detract from the film overall, but it’s strange.

Anyone looking for a bit of light entertainment could do worse than find a copy of this one.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose sexiest novel contains no kittens, but has a protagonist with the attitude to wear her sexuality well. Timeless is a thriller set in a world of international smuggling and medieval monasteries whose pace never falls off. You can check it out here.

An Alcoholic Romp

Having recently viewed Kind Hearts and Coronets, I was extremely surprised to learn that Whisky Galore (1949) was from the same studio: Ealing.  While the first of these is a meticulously detail-oriented and sophisticated black comedy, Whisky Galore seems to have been filmed by a crew who’d imbibed liberally in the titular beverage.

Whisky Galore film still.jpg

‘Romp’ is the perfect word to describe it.  This is not an understated film.  Every situation is taken to the extreme, and the production teeters on the edge of disaster the whole way through.  It’s a testament to the writers, directors (at least two) and actors that this never quite happens.  The post-shoot editing of this film is reported to have been a fraught affair, and one can see why: getting this one right has to have been a difficult endeavor.

As for how the audience receives it, I don’t recall many of the films on the 1001 movies list to be quite this fun.  Insanity, if held barely in check, is a surefire way of generating effective comedy, and it proves to be the case this time around.

Another thing that makes this one work is that the butt of most of the jokes are hidebound people who obey the rules at all costs, even when the rules are stupid or unenforceable.  In this film, they are represented by an English commander of a Home Guard unit during WWII, but he stands for everyone who upholds boring convention, especially health and safety.

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for any appreciable time knows that health and safety freaks are not my favorite people, so I took wicked delight in watching authority get it in the shorts.

I don’t really have a critical evaluation of this one.  It is one to enjoy without overanalyzing it.  So that’s what I’ll do here.  Just get a copy of it, but be careful–there’s a remake from 2016, and one which I’d be leery of.  Much of the comedy in this film is the kind of stuff modern filmmakers are afraid of (you don’t want to fall afoul of the politically correct thought police), so the remake might be a watered-down monstrosity (I hope not, but as I haven’t seen it, I need to issue the warning).

Anyhow, watch this movie.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose debut collection Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places holds a number of slapstick stories in among the spaceship tales.  You can check it out here.