Cinerama: How to Marry a Millionaire

Posted: September 12, 2009 in Cinerama

How to Marry a Millionaire

By Mike Derderian

Will the troubles of life wither with the passing of another year and the start of another? I doubt it, but lets not get pessimistic. If only we all were able to marry a millionaire, life would have been simpler and with less trouble to bear—you know I’m joking, don’t you? Nevertheless, it brings us to a very trivial question and that is “how to marry a millionaire?”

To marry a millionaire you can either try to hook up with a wealthy duke—the same way Satine (Nicole Kidman) and her band of bohemian men and women in Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 Moulin Rouge did—or you could rent a penthouse in New York and live with Shatze (Lauren Bacall), Pola (Marilyn Monroe) and Loco (Betty Grable), who are set out to marry a millionaire, in Jean Negulesco’s 1953 How to Marry a Millionaire.

How to Marry a Millionaire is not exactly a classic masterpiece but it still manages a few laughs and giggles out of a person. Even though it is helmed by three of Hollywood’s most glamorous divas—Bacall certainly had the looks back then, despite the husky voice—this 105 minute-film comes as nothing more than a mundane tale of three women.

Monroe was sensually and childishly charming; Grable was sexy but limited in the dumb-blonde role; and Bacall was sophisticated and was the lead story in this tale of three women set out for a life of riches. If only things were that easy—but as we all know life is anything but easy and it always has an ability to pull a bunny out of a hat anytime it wants.

Nevertheless, the movie has it moments of light-hearted comedy mixed with shtick (on part of Monroe in one scene in the powder room) and mild sexual innuendos. The latter is the result of the brutal 1930 Hays Code; you can’t talk directly about sex but you can imply it.

The three leading ladies were supported by Cameron Mitchell, David Wayne, Fred Clark, Rory Calhoun and William Powell, who portrayed J.D Hanly, an old cattle tycoon from Texas, who takes interest in the mild tempered Miss Schatze Page.

Schatze (Bacall), who is the boss of the gang, is determined from the beginning to find a rich fish to bake and refuses to compromise her scheme and give in to “gas pumping men” no matter how charming they were.

Ironically, a shaggy looking man, Tom Brookman (Mitchell), who helps Loco in picking up the bill for the grocery and carrying it to the their penthouse, falls for Schatze. She, of course, refuses to return to the sentiment thinking that Brookman is poor when he is in fact filthy rich.

Pola Debevoise (Monroe), who is blind like a bat but refuses to appear in front of men wearing glasses, is kind-a-like Schatze—uncompromising and dead-determined to find a rich man to marry. She is in a way the comic relief, and despite of Monroe’s knack for comedy and superb talent for humor—as displayed in Let’s Make Love (1960); Some Like It Hot (1959); and The Seven Year Itch (1955)—her performance comes flat, blaming no one but the script and the irregular storyline that did not do Marilyn and the other girls justice.

Unlike the two other women, Loco Dempsey (Grable) is the only one who expresses her doubts on whether money or a good man brings happiness. She meets Waldo Brewster (Clark), a very boring and in Loco’s words “a square.” Brewster, who is unhappily married, takes her to his lodge, where she will meet and fall for Eben (Calhoun), a rugged and handsome forest ranger.

Watching How to Marry a Millionaire is like running in a marathon; there is simply no time for the characters to develop and everything is rushed right to the end. It could have been a better film had each actress more time to develop and expand their characters, not to mention, more screen time.

Must-see Scenes: The nighttime scene when the girls dream up their fantasies about becoming rich; the fashion house scene when Pola, Loco and Schatze model for Tom Brookman; Pola’s can’t-see-a-thing encounters with Freddie Denmark (Wayne); a man on the run from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); and the former owner of the penthouse in which the girls live; and finally any scene involving Marilyn Monroe, who was certainly the scene stealer of this film.

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