How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but is suitable for all audiences
Running Time: 95 min.
Cast: Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, David Wayne, Rory Calhoun, Cameron Mitchell
Director: Jean Negulesco
Screenplay: Nunnally Johnson
Revew Published August 21, 2003
There are a couple of things that are notable about this otherwise forgettable romantic comedy, both having to do merely with aesthetics than the content. First, it was the second film made in the Fox's Cinemascope format (although there is some argument as to whether it actually was first) shot in the widescreen style we all are accustomed to today. Granted, THE ROBE is generally given credit for this, and was the first film actually released in the format.
The second notable aspect doesn't seem nearly as significant, but probably is to more people, especially those who might be watching this movie today. This would be Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe's first time as a platinum blonde, setting the look for which she would be known the rest of her career.
The actual film isn't as significant, other than the casting of the three prominent personalities, Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and Betty Grable. All three play to their personalities, Bacall as the salty but smart one, with Monroe and Grable playing the ditzy bombshells following her every instruction on snaring the rich man. The screenplay by Nunnally Johnson (THE GRAPES OF WRATH, THE DIRTY DOZEN) is based on the combination of two plays, The Greek Had a Word for Them by Zoe Akins, and Loco by husband and wife team Dale Eunson and Katherine Albert.
The three gorgeous girls play New York City models, all living in a posh Manhattan apartment for a year, who conspire to achieve their ultimate goal: finding eligible rich bachelors in the hope of snaring one into marriage and a life of luxury. Not so easy, as many of the rich men are already married or are quick to hide the fact that they have the fortunes they do, for fear of meeting women very much like them, gold-diggers.
HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE is a good looking film, and not just for the lead actresses. The Cinamascope technique is fully utilized here, opening with a lush orchestral number that surely must have been a marvel to behold for audiences seeing the technique for the first time. The Academy Award nominated costume design by Charles Le Maire Travilla is also quite well done, perfectly adapting itself into the grand, light color scheme that is in every frame of this sumptuous film. This would be Jean Negulesco's (Johnny Belinda) largest undertaking, and with the casting, it would seem a "can't miss" flick for the target audience of fans.
This is a very light comedy, and although not particularly big on laughs, there are occasional moments of wit and funny in-jokes for those in the know, and the tone overall is pleasant enough to keep you in a good mood. There's nothing revolutionary in the storyline, as it is extremely predictable, although it's easy to see why Fox played it safe when dealing with how much money they shelled out for the film. The film is currently marketed on video as if Marilyn Monroe were the main star of the film, but in reality, she probably isn't in the film more than a third of the running screen time.
So, whether you are watching this for the star appeal, or just wanting a pleasant romantic comedy, keep your expectations low. HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE is mostly forgettable fluff that entertains only while it's on, and your mind will likely move on to other things the second the credits roll.
©2003 Vince Leo