HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE was a big hit back in 1953, mostly because it showcased CinemaScope and the other new eye-watering sensation of the year: Marilyn Monroe. The new bomb on the block shared billing with Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable, playing a trio of get-it-while-I’m-hot gold-diggers looking to land Bill’s or Bob’s with big bucks. As if guys would fall for it…..
Cool and determined fashion model ‘Schatze Page’ (Bacall, 28) is bound to snare a rich husband, and teams up with more genial ‘Loco Dempsey’ (Grable, 36) and ditzy ‘Pola Debevoise’ (Monroe, 26) to rent a snazzy Sutton Place penthouse in New York City and fake their way into situations where rich men might be brought to high-heel. Various fish—some marlin, others sardines—eagerly reeled in, then either thrown back, put on ice or grilled include William Powell, Fred Clark, Cameron Mitchell, Rory Calhoun and David Wayne. Will “regular Joe’s” who don’t have stock portfolios stand a chance? Keep repeating, ‘this is only a movie’….
Since CinemaScope was also pushing Stereophonic sound, Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck saw to it that the show lifted off with a ‘treat’ opener: composer Alfred Newman conducting a 70-piece orchestra in a 5-minute Gershwin-esque selection he’d whipped up called “Street Scene”. For fans of the genius Newman, it’s a neat curio to see the maestro’s energy at work with his talented minions, even if it has next-to-nothing to do with the following she-gets-he shenanigans.
Studio system veterans were at the helm—Jean Negulesco directing Nunnally Johnson’s script—but aside from Monroe’s winning klutz and game playing from Grable, the dated and too-tame material is just not all that funny. Monroe’s timing steals the film; her Pola’s vision is so bad that without glasses she can barely see, thus bumping into everything and everyone. She’s not the brightest of bulbs to start with, but is sweet and basically honest. Grable’s Loco has a few more clues, and is likewise likable. Bacall is saddled with the least appealing character. Her hard-hearted Schatze has to change her stripes by the finish to make the story end happily, but it’s a too clumsy transition, and too late (writing, not actress). Suave old pro Powell walks through without breaking a sweat, and the other fellas are more than proficient.
No doubt a good night out seven decades back. Still, pleasant enough fluff, based on a 1930 play “The Greeks Had A Word For It”, done as a movie in 1932 titled The Greeks Had A Word For Them (changed to Three Broadway Girls). With Alex D’Arcy, Percy Helton, Ivan Triesault, and Merry Anders–she’d later turn up in the 1957-59 TV series spin-off co-starring Barbara Eden and Lori Nelson.
Made for $1,900,000, “Variety” listed it 4th highest earner for the year, while Cogerson has it 6th with a take of $22,100,000 (which seems excessive–I’m about to give up and go through all my reviews and remove box-office figures, since the “authoritative” sources can so often be at wild variance).
One in-joke of the day was Bacall saying “I’ve always liked older men. Look at Roosevelt. Look at Churchill! Look at that old fellow – what’s-his-name in African Queen. Absolutely crazy about him!” She was married to Humphrey Bogart, 25 years her senior.