How To Marry A Millionaire
Monday, 1.20pm, Ch4
A trio of beautiful, well-groomed women – Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable (pictured) – move into a swanky New York apartment with the express intention of landing wealthy husbands. This romantic comedy earns its weight in gold thanks to the infectious charm of its three leading ladies.
Monroe is at her sashaying, ditzy best as blind-as-a-bat Pola Debevoise; Bacall is droll cynic Schatze Page, a divorcée who seems resigned to her fate, all too aware, perhaps, of the limited choices for a woman in the 1950s; and Grable is plucky Loco Dempsey, who appears to have fewer scruples, but is down to earth and dreams about hot dogs, not diamonds.
Some will be uneasy with the film’s premise. Portraying women as manipulative gold-diggers whose only goal is marriage is pretty unflattering. This is no satire: it was intended as moneymaking entertainment, pure and simple.
Taken at face value, then, How To Marry A Millionaire is to modern audiences, and to modern women, the very definition of a guilty pleasure. The three stars are on full beam, outshining – to a positively blinding degree – all of the male cast members, none of whom has retained much cultural cachet today. (Just see if you can name any of them…)
Each of the female stars proved something with the film. Monroe became Hollywood’s hottest property, Bacall demonstrated a hitherto untested gift for comedy, while Grable, whose star was waning after years on top, went out on a spectacular high (she retired in 1955).
The story behind
20th Century Fox used How To Marry A Millionaire as a showcase for its new widescreen CinemaScope process. It was only the second film to be released in the format, to great fanfare – the first was biblical epic The Robe, also in 1953.
CinemaScope was an effort to win back audiences from television. Ironically, from 1957 to 1959, How To Marry A Millionaire was also a hit TV sitcom, starring Lori Nelson, Barbara Eden and Merry Anders (above). Simone Andrews