A Movie A Week: HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953)
Look at that old fella… what’s his name in The African Queen...
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the first entry of A Movie A Week, the slightly less demanding version of A Movie A Day. For those who followed along with the AMADs, the rules for AMAW will be the same. Each film will be connected to the one before it via a common thread, either an actor, director, writer, producer or some other crew member. Each film, pulled from my DVD shelf or recorded on the home DVR (I heart TCM) will be one I haven’t seen. Let’s get started!
I’m shamefully ignorant on many of Marilyn Monroe’s films. Sure, I’ve seen pieces here or there of her more famous movies, but it all goes back to my childhood. I like romances and chick flicks, but nobody in my family was an old film lover, with the exceptions of the Leone Westerns and Bonds. My exposure to vintage film has mostly been on my own, with a lot of help from the Alamo Drafthouse and Harry and Jay Knowles.
That said, I have still pecked away at Monroe’s films from time to time. SOME LIKE IT HOT, ALL ABOUT EVE, CLASH BY NIGHT, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE to list off some I’ve seen. But that still leaves a whole lot to uncover, many of which we’ll be hitting in this column.
While gearing up for this new column I ran through the THIN MAN box set last week, so I figured the best thing to do was use that warm-up as the lead-in to the new column. We follow Nick Charles himself, Mr. William Powell, over to one of his final films HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE co-starring Monroe, Betty Grable and the sultry Lauren Bacall.
I’m sure this film was a template for SEX AND THE CITY with a group of females gathering together in NYC on the hunt for husbands. Of course in the newer, freer era they can be on the prowl for sex and not marriage.
Bacall is the ringleader, renting a ritzy, fully furnished apartment (its owner is on the lam for income tax evasion) as a means to nab a rich man. She has enough for the security and first month’s rent and ends up selling the furnishings as a way to make the incredibly steep $1,000 a month rent.
Her scheme has her gathering at least two pretty girls to room with her and between the three of them they will surely nab a multi-millionaire that can set up all of ‘em.
Monroe plays the breathy Pola, who is blind as a bat, but refuses to wear her diamond-studded horn-rimmed glasses because she’s certain no man wants a woman in glasses. Naturally, she’s the most blatant comic relief of the movie, constantly bumping into walls.
Pola brings in her friend, another model, named Loco (Betty Grable) to be the third. The first time we meet her she’s asked to bring lunch for the three as Bacall essentially interviews her for this scheme. Grable only has a quarter and somehow talks a nice guy (Cameron Mitchell) into buying all her groceries, showing up at the apartment with him carrying the bags filled with champagne and all sorts of rich stuffs.
That gets Grable into the club and also gets Cameron Mitchell’s Tom Brookman in the door, going ga-ga over Bacall. Bacall pegs him for a gas-pump attendant because she’s attracted to him, too, and she only ever seems to be attracted to poor gas jockeys. Which is funny because he’s actually the richest person in the story, he just won’t admit it.
The three girls waste no time getting into polite society, ultimately each bagging three likely millionaires. Monroe gets a mysterious character wearing an eyepatch and seemingly in control of millions, all oil money, Grable latches on to a married man, also wealthy, and Bacall has her sites set on a real nice older guy, played by William Powell.
Powell brings a lot of charm to the movie, which it needs. As hot as they are, Bacall, Monroe and Grable are still playing shallow gold-diggers. Powell is the key to their humanity, especially for Bacall, the coldest of the three.
The other two hopefuls are shady, amoral rich fucks. But Powell is a genuinely nice guy. He’s not a liar or a cheat, just a lonely widower who falls for Bacall.
Naturally, fate throws all three women together with the right guy for them, even if its not who they expected to fall in with. I particularly like Monroe’s final grab, someone who isn’t exactly an angel, but immediately accepts her for who she is, not who she’s trying to be.
The flick is cute and strangely meta. The sub-head quote I picked, for instance, comes from Lauren Bacall as she’s trying to convince William Powell that their age difference doesn’t matter to her. She finds older men attractive, always has. “Look at Roosevelt! Look at Churchill! Look at that old fella… what’s his name from The African Queen.” Of course, that’s in reference to Humphrey Bogart, Bacall’s main squeeze in real life. There’s also a line as Monroe is modeling a hot little red number with diamond clasps referring to her famous DIAMONDS ARE A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND song from GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, which came out mere months before the release of this particular film.
Final Thoughts: Like I said, the flick is cute, but didn’t really hit me dead center. I think it’s a bit too breezy to really get me crazy-enthusiastic, but I can’t complain about spending an hour and a half with 1953 Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe in glorious Technicolor. HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE isn’t a film I fell crazy in love with, but I liked it a lot, especially the last act where Bacall actually becomes a human being and not a money-hungry beast.
Upcoming A Movie A Week Titles:
Monday, May 4th: PHONE CALL FROM A STRANGER (1952)
Monday, May 11th: HUSH… HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964)
Monday, May 18th: TOO LATE THE HERO (1970)
Monday, May 25th: THE BEST MAN (1964)
Next Monday we’ll hit PHONE CALL FROM A STRANGER via common screenwriter Nunnally Johnson (who also contributed to a few AMAD flicks, such as MOONTIDE and BLACK WIDOW). The film stars Shelley Winters, Bette Davis, Michael Rennie and Keenan Wynn. See you folks next week for that one!
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April 27, 2009, 6:22 p.m. CST
BIG GREEN ONES
April 27, 2009, 6:23 p.m. CST
and you didn't use that as an excuse to watch Fanny Hill the following week?!? For shame, Quint!<p> Oh wait, you've probably seen it. Ne'er mind.
April 27, 2009, 6:24 p.m. CST
beauty....haha thought I was going to say boobs didn't you!!! Anyway I have that photo of here topless with pearls....yummy!!!
April 27, 2009, 6:42 p.m. CST
by Shepard Wong
Great flick. I used to watch my laser disc at least once a year. Is it out on DVD?
April 27, 2009, 7:12 p.m. CST
THOSE EYES!! THOSE FUCKING EYES!!! STOP LOOKING AT ME YOU CRAZY BITCH!
April 27, 2009, 7:34 p.m. CST
This 'un has Betty Grable. A pin-up whose attraction I really can't see, along with the likes of Jean Harlow (she looks kinda like a pig, no? And her voice annoys the hell out of me).<p> Grable's good here, though. Though I still reckon her best performance was as a poster in Stalag 17. <p>Marilyn did a string of fluffy as hell movies (the most underrated of which IMO is Let's Make Love, co-starring and co-bedding Yves Montand), which the critic in me could pick apart but I find impossible not to enjoy. And they're not complete fluff fests, apart from the meta thing you mentioned, she really does bring her own quality to them. It must be hard to come across that human and vulnerable in a room full of sound guys and cameramen, but she almost always did it without fail. It's not so evident in this movie, though she's rarely been cuter (glasses or not).
April 27, 2009, 7:39 p.m. CST
She was hot (but I don't think it was because she was the devil). But yes, that cover art is creepy.
April 27, 2009, 7:43 p.m. CST
Was the only good thing MM did, she was terrible.
April 27, 2009, 7:46 p.m. CST
As punishment I will now listen to this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQGyTKoByWc song 20 times in a row. Pray for me.
April 27, 2009, 7:51 p.m. CST
Even if you're not a fan of fluffy '50s comedies, you gotta give her props for The Misfits, The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve- two stone cold John Huston classics and one of the best movies Old Hollywood ever put out. I bet most actresses wouldn't mind three films of their calibre on their resumes.
April 27, 2009, 8:17 p.m. CST
I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies.
April 27, 2009, 8:18 p.m. CST
She's got Bettie Davis ass.
April 27, 2009, 9:31 p.m. CST
by frank cotton
April 27, 2009, 9:41 p.m. CST
Speaking of Amazon Queen, why oh why is that movie not released here in the states? <br><br> I've not seen Millionaire, but there is just something about 50's rom-coms that are just pure fun. Can't stand the modern version, but the oldies just have a certain vibe that I can't put my finger on...
April 27, 2009, 11:20 p.m. CST
by Larry of Arabia
I can't help but to think the whole thing is a little flat. I kept waiting for it to take off and just charm me. Never happened. By the way, that one actor in the film appears to be that guy who's always standing and walking. You know who I mean.
April 28, 2009, 12:02 a.m. CST
is that the guy they're referring to in the line?
April 28, 2009, 1:33 a.m. CST
Great to see this feature. One of my favorite things to read on the site.
April 28, 2009, 2:22 a.m. CST
With the exception of Vern. And since his site is blocked to me on this stinking ship I can't read any of his reviews. Quint is the best writer and the best reviewer and would really be better suited to his own site...I guess you could say I am gay to Quint's writing.
April 28, 2009, 7:14 a.m. CST
It seems like "a movie a day". Perhaps you could put this column off to the side? It's so annoying to go to AICN looking for actual "news" and finding movie reviews for old films we have already seen or that we don't care about.
April 28, 2009, 8:33 a.m. CST
The movie is African Queen. The Amazon Queen is Harry...
April 28, 2009, 8:33 a.m. CST
Yep, Bogart is the answer.
April 28, 2009, 10:33 a.m. CST
My bad, but a perfect response on your part! I still want to know why the African Queen is not out on DVD though, where it can then be hawked by the Amazon Queen...
April 28, 2009, 10:49 a.m. CST
It's like old times.
April 28, 2009, 11:58 a.m. CST
Don't believe the haters. This column rocks, belongs here as a way of giving context to the news and reviews of new films and is well-written. Keep it up. You're going to love "The Best Man". Especially if you liked "Advise and Consent".
April 28, 2009, 12:49 p.m. CST
Millionaire and Stranger also have the same director, Jean Negulesco.
April 28, 2009, 3:40 p.m. CST
What was teh context of the line? something related to bacall there maybe?
April 28, 2009, 4:03 p.m. CST
I bring it up in the review itself... it's a very meta aspect to the movie... Bacall is trying to explain to William Powell, the older rich guy she's trying to wed, that their age difference isn't a big deal. She's always liked older men. Look at Churchill! Look at Roosevelt! Look at what's his name, the old fella in The African Queen. <BR><BR>So yeah, definitely a nod to her real life main squeeze.
April 28, 2009, 4:04 p.m. CST
Well, I'm flattered. It's not often that someone is gay for me... or even straight for me, for that matter. And I agree... Vern is the most awesome person in the world.
April 28, 2009, 7:37 p.m. CST
by Dr. Strangelove
...of the technicolor Marilyn Monroe flicks. A Billy Wilder classic.
May 4, 2009, 9:13 p.m. CST
Monroe was beautiful, as always. It was interesting to see her played against Bacall, as well as Grable, both legendary beauties. The vapidness of thier entire plot got to me though. I enjoyed Grable going through the tollbooth though- only scene that had me bust out laughing.
June 17, 2009, 8:06 a.m. CST
My favorite quote from the making of that flick: Grable sez to Monroe -- "My time is over, kid. It's your time now. Ride it for all it's worth" Grable -- wotta marvelous dame!
June 17, 2009, 4:44 p.m. CST
Bacall was smokin
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