Reviewed by Mike Martin
Stars Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Charles Coburn, Elliott Reed, Tommy Noonan, George Winslow, Marcel Dalio, Taylor Holmes, Norma Varden, Howard Wendell
Written by Charles Lederer, Joseph Fields & Anita Loos
Certification UK U | US R
Runtime 91 minutes
Directed by Howard Hawks
Surely there’s been a mistake here – a U certificate? This classic musical absolutely oozes sex from every frame, and every line of the script, with two of Hollwood’s biggest sex symbols on top form – surely it’s at least an 18!
Actually, scratch that, THE two biggest Hollywood sex symbols ever. Jane Russell is every bit as gorgeous and sexy as Marilyn, and the pair make an irresistible package. When Russell sings Ain’t Anyone Here For Love with the US Olympic team doing gymnastics around her dressed in flesh-coloured trunks and knocking her into a pool it’s almost a Bacchanalian orgy. Hollywood can come in for some stick sometimes, and rightly so, but in its golden age, when it got it right, it could produce some absolutely cracking, five-star, breathtaking entertainment.
Hawks was one of Hollywood’s greats in all genres, and with him directing the result was one of the most vivacious 90 minutes of that great age. The irony is that it almost didn’t happen. Filming was slow, and when Fox asked Hawks how production could be sped up he retorted: "three wonderful ideas: Replace Marilyn, rewrite the script and make it shorter, and get a new director." Luckily none of these things happened, and there was an even bigger slice of luck. The mentally fragile Monroe took a shine to her co-star Russell, despite the brunette getting paid more money and top billing. When told she was not the star of the film, Monroe said: "Well whatever I am, I'm still the blonde."
She certainly is, and when she gets her arse stuck in a porthole it encapsulates both the fun of the film and how Hollywood has changed. Can you imagine a current star doing that? They’re all too skinny, and too po-faced. Take the chance to see this marvellous musical on the big screen, as the colours are delicious, and the musical numbers deserve to be heard at full volume. You all know the plot by now – the two Little Girls From Little Rock are on a cruise, with Marilyn betrothed to Tommy Noonan but trying to stay out of trouble. Some hope of that after she meets old duffer Piggy (Charles Coburn, wonderful) who owns a diamond mine. Meanwhile Russell catches her admirer, the seemingly decent Elliott Reed, taking pictures through a porthole.
Even if you’ve seen this many times, see it again – you forget how incredibly funny it is, the songs are catchy and the minor characters all wonderfully drawn. One moment encapsulates the whole movie – when Monroe bellows “these rocks don’t lose their shape” while staring directly at her breasts. It’s witty and very sexy at the same time- like the film itself. Magnificent.