Retro: The Unquiet American

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES

Howard Hawks
USA 1953
91min
V'09

This eccentric 1950s Hollywood musical (1953, 91 min.), directed by Howard Hawks, might be described as the best Frank Tashlin film that Tashlin had nothing to do with. It is characteristic of Hawks in its concentration on the interactions between two loyal friends (Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell as two showgirls – the first one interested in money, the second one interested in love), even if these friends are uncharacteristically women rather than men, and all the male characters are in fact viewed as somewhat ridiculous. But as in the best films of Tashlin, this is a satiric universe about the excesses of American ­capitalism predicated on the kind of exaggeration and grotesquerie found in cartoons. Hawks himself didn’t direct any of the musical numbers, which were handled by Jack Cole, but the overall unity is never in question, and each of these numbers represents both a climax in and an extension of the film’s ­unwavering thematic concerns. The magical chemistry between Russell and Monroe, predicated on the reality of the former and the unreality of the latter, was understood perfectly by Hawks, and it fascinatingly anticipates the chemistry between Dominique Labourier and Juliet Berto in Jacques Rivette’s <![CDATA[<i>]]>Céline et Julie vont en bateau<![CDATA[</i>]]> a little over two decades later. Years later, ­Russell would cite this film as her favorite, and it was also clearly the film that made Monroe into a major star.

Credits
  • Harry Carey
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Jane Russell
  • Marcel Dalio
  • Jr. - Lt. Pennell
  • Charles Coburn - «Colonel» Harrington
  • Elliott Reid
Sol C. Siegel
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