Sunday, July 20, 2014

Film Classics of the 20th Century

In this ongoing series on film classics of the last century, we've looked at  Blow OutYou Only Live TwiceSleeper,  Diamonds Are Forever,  Sleepless In Seattle,  My Little Chickadee,  Tootsie,  After Hours,  Edward ScissorhandsChristmas in Connecticut, Desk Set,  When Harry Met Sally . . .,  Who Done It?,  That Darn Cat!,  Cactus Flower,  Family Plot, House Sitter,  and Outrageous Fortune.   Film classics are the films that grab you, even on repeat viewings, especially on repeat viewings.

Three women work together to help each other out in a comedy that becomes the biggest comedy Fox has for the year.

You probably think we're talking about 9 to 5.

While that does describe the Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton classic comedy, it also applies to an earlier comedy classic.

In 1953, Fox released How To Marry A Millionaire.  Jean Negulesco directed the film, Nunnally Johnson wrote the script and Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable starred as three friends and models who work a scheme to marry rich.

Betty Grable had been one of the biggest stars (and pin-ups) of the 40s.  How To Marry A Millionaire would be her last blockbuster film.

Lauren Bacall became a star in 1944's To Have and Have Not opposite future husband Humphrey Bogart.  The two would reteam for the classics The Big Sleep, Key Largo and Dark Passage.  On her own, Bacall's hit films would include Designing Woman, Harper, Sex and the Single Girl, Murder On The Orient Express, Written On The Wind, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Misery and The Walker.  At 89, Bacall continues her film career.

Marilyn Monroe, of course, became one of the most famous actresses of all time.

For all three, How To Marry A Millionaire was a high point.  As noted before, it's Betty Grable's last big hit.  For Bacall, it demonstrated she could do comedy quite well.  For Monroe?

When Monroe walked away from Fox and went to NYC to study at The Actors Studio it was because of films like this.

No, not awful films.

She made this movie, she loved it and she was loved in it.

But a lot of inferior scripts followed that she would turn down.

Good scripts had helped her become famous in small roles (All About Eve, Monkey Business, Clash By Night, etc.).  Niagara had made her famous and been followed by the classic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Good scripts gave her the chance to be more than a sex object.

How To Marry A Millionaire provided her with a character too vain and too scared to wear needed glasses.  This provided laughs and added a humanizing touch as well.

And the film is one of the movies first big comedy blockbusters in which the leads are three women.  Many more would follow, including 9 to 5, First Wives Club and The Other Woman -- but it started here.

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