At The Movies: How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)


How to Marry a Millionaire


1953 • 95 minutes • 20th Century Fox

Have I ever mentioned how much I like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? I like to think of it as the prototype for one of my favorite comedy duo archetypes—Bad Idea Friend and Idiot. It’s sweet, daffy, bursting with Technicolor (which I adore), and features the amazing line, “Prithee, scat.” I’ll get around to revisiting it and reviewing some day (haha long term plans for my blog haha), but for now, let us have it inform my opinion of How to Marry a Millionaire.

How to Marry a Millionaire opens with three models on the take. Schatze Page, burned from a marriage to a poor man, has decided to pool her resources with sweet but daffy Pola (who needs glasses but won’t wear them around men) and wild card Loco in order to rent a swanky penthouse in order for one of the three women to ensnare a millionaire. As their resources dwindle—they hock nearly everything in the apartment—the three settle on three likely prospects: a widower for Schatze, a married businessman for Loco, and a one-eyed oil tycoon for Pola. But other prospects keep popping up—especially Tom Brookman, a man who will not leave Schatze alone.

Let’s be real—watching three beautiful women swanning about in gorgeous clothes, scheming while having a smoke on the patio of their gorgeous penthouse apartment is always going to be a good time for me. I often tend to think of mid-century comedies like this as hangout movies, glutted as I am on action and sf films where the stakes could not possibly be higher. They’re breezy, sweet, and fun. And it’s nice to see a pack of women going about their business. Even though I’m pretty sure this fails the Bechdel Test, it’s still a relief to see women having fun with each other. Of course, How to Marry a Millionaire is hardly Some Like It Hot—it doesn’t stick a remotely progressive landing, especially when Schatze falls in love with Tom Brookman, whose insistent advances just now read as discomfiting. It ends with everyone suitably married and gently punished—teased, might be a better way to put it—for their avarice.

In the case of both Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, I’m really struck by how funny Marilyn Monroe is. She’s a commodity now—I have definitely seen bras for sale from a brand bearing her name—and her image is nearly warped past the point of retrievability, so it’s nice to go back to her actual work and see how wonderful she is. Pola’s Lady Magoo routine is a little slapstick, but there’s a prim warmth to her openness. And the fact that her story ends with her future husband telling her that she should absolutely wear glasses. (It’d be nicer if it wasn’t because he thinks she’s cuter with them on, though.) Of the cast, though, it’s mostly Lauren Bacall who runs away with this, with her glamorous height, imperious stare, and low, throaty voice. It’s a joy to see her cut her eyes at anyone, take cracks at her personal life, and, of course, make demands. Glorious, glorious demands.

I watched this film on Netflix.

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