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GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES is not only one of the first films in which Marilyn Monroe played a starring role; this film forever cemented her position as a cinematic icon. I doubt that there is anyone who is unfamiliar with Marilyn's rendition of Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend; that classic image of Marilyn in her pink evening gown surrounded by suitors brandishing diamond jewelry still shows up quite frequently in video and print mediums. Then again, Marilyn’s stamp still affects modern pop culture as we are reminded by a certain Madonna music video that still shows up on VH1 on a fairly regular basis.

In GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES Marilyn portrays Lorelei Lee, a nightclub entertainer with a penchant for rich men and diamond jewelry. Lorelei is engaged to marry the somewhat wishy-washy, but incredibly wealthy, Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan). Although his father violently objects to his engagement to a gold digger, Gus intends to marry Lorelei in Paris. However, before Lorelei and Gus can sail away to Europe, his father throws up a roadblock that keeps him off the ship. Lorelei leaves for Paris anyway, with her best friend and show business partner Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) serving as a chaperone to keep her friend out of trouble. Although, Lorelei tries to set her friend with one of the many wealthy bachelors on the ship, Dorothy ends up falling for the detective, who was employed by Gus' father to keep an eye on Lorelei. As you might expect, Lorelei ends up in all sorts of trouble when she starts up an innocent friendship with Sir Francis Beekman (Charles Coburn), a wealthy Englishman with his own his own diamond mine.

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES is one of those perfectly formulated Hollywood confections that succeed because the film is overflowing with talent. Director Howard Hawks was adept at every genre and he strikes pay dirt with his sharply focused work on this film. Marilyn Monroe is not only gorgeous to look at, she places a her own spin on the stereotypical "dumb blonde" giving her character a sweet innocence that combines surprisingly well with her raw sexuality. Jane Russell displays plenty of talent beyond the obvious- she sings, dances and slings acerbic one-liners with the best of them. Not only that, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES gives Russell the chance to do a fairly hilarious impression of Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei Lee. Charles Coburn was one of the great character actors of the silver screen and he is a genuine delight as the slightly devious English Lord who takes a shine to Lorelei Lee. The cast of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES also includes Elliott Reid, George Winslow, Marcel Dalio, Taylor Holmes, Norma Varden and Howard Wendell.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES available on DVD in a full screen presentation that comes very close to the film's original 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio. This superb transfer comes from recently restored film elements that were prepared specifically for this release. GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES was filmed in three-strip Technicolor, and the new transfer comes incredibly close to conveying the glory of lost process. During the forties and early fifties, Fox Technicolor movies had a candy colored look that was particular to the studio. Sure, other studios used the Technicolor process, but there was something truly special about Fox Technicolor. The opening number looks absolutely incredible on DVD, which is no small feat when one considers how hard it is reproduce convincing reds on NTSC video. However, the red sequined gowns worn by the film's leading ladies look absolutely amazing on the bright blue background. The other colors are also wonderfully rich and completely stable, while the flesh tones maintain the healthy pallor of a Hollywood makeup department. The only flaw in the color is a mild fuzziness the creeps into some shots because of varying rates of shrinkage in the original three-strip film elements, which had to be recombined for the restoration. The level of sharpness and detail is excellent for a film of this vintage; completely blowing away everything that has preceded this release. Minute details, such as textures in fabrics and the black specks in the actors’ irises are now readily discernable. Blacks are very pure, plus there is a good dose of shadow detail in the image, as well as impressive depth. There are absolutely no problems with digital compression artifacts on this cleanly authored dual layer DVD.

For this release, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES has been given a new Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound mix. There are certainly limitations in recordings rapidly approaching the half a century mark, but Fox has done a great job in cleaning them up. For the most part, the stereo sounds like a thickened monaural, with some sounds being given a bit of directionality. The effect is very pleasant, and not annoyingly artificial like some reprocessed monaural tracks. Additionally, the film's music sounds very good for its age and will take a goodly amount of amplification without becoming distorted. Fidelity of these older recordings limited in the higher and lower frequencies, but I still enjoyed the movie's musical numbers enormously. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced, with very good intelligibility, plus Marilyn Monroe's breathy speaking voice still manages to sound like music to my ears. The original monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as is a French monaural track. Subtitles are provided in English and Spanish.

The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. The most interesting extra on the DVD is a comparison of how GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES looked before and after the restoration. This feature utilizes a split screen to show the differences, especially how bad the previous un-restored version of the film looked. Also included on the DVD is newsreel footage of Monroe and Russell putting their handprints in cement for posterity, as well as theatrical trailers for this and other Monroe DVD titles. A brief still file of promotional materials closes out the extras.

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES is a classic movie that has been given a beautiful presentation on DVD by the folks at Fox. This DVD is an absolute must have for film buffs and Marilyn Monroe fans.

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES is available individually on DVD for $24.98 or as part of Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection for $99.98.



Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection


 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

 Marilyn Monroe - The Diamond Collection


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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