Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)

How to Marry a MillionaireThis movie is half a century old and followed The Robe as the second Cinemascope feature. It's visually beautiful in the DVD widescreen version, evoking the thrill of first seeing Cinemascope in 1953 (which I'm old enough to remember). Though the story and humor are extremely dated and so many of its stars are now dead, the photography and sound are both so breathtakingly clear and beautiful, it makes one realize how advanced the technical side of filmmaking was that long ago. It's amazing how cinematographers of that day were able to adapt so quickly to the much wider screen and take full advantage of its sweep even during scenes filmed in close quarters, such as those on the airliner (which was a propeller plane, by the way). It's true that Lauren Bacall, though lovely in the film, looks much older than the "25" she's supposed to be. (I saw Ms. Bacall in person pitching her bio at a bookstore 45 years later and she looked un-surgically young and beautiful, so go figure.) While the movie is not great in terms of content or performances, it's worthwhile because it's a beautifully restored piece of movie history that recaptures a more innocent (?) age and preserves an important part of the Monroe legend.

HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE was the first non-musical comedy to be released in the CinemaScope ratio. The film was released in 1953, which proved to be Monroe's breakthrough, watershed year, with the success of MILLIONAIRE, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES and NIAGARA cementing her place as one of the top box-office attractions of 1953.

MILLIONAIRE is one of Monroe's most delightful offerings. She plays the visually-challenged Pola, who, along with Chotzi (Lauren Bacall KEY LARGO, THE BIG SLEEP) and 'Loco' (Betty Grable MOTHER WORE TIGHTS) rents a Manhattan penthouse in the hopes of snagging rich husbands.

Of course, Fate often hands you things totally unexpected, and soon the girls realise that money can't be a substitute for happiness. There are plenty of pin-sharp observations about the opposite sex, a good 50-odd years before "Sex and the City" decided to make a whole TV show about women in the Big Apple.

Marilyn, Lauren and Betty make a colorful trio, and the CinemaSope picture is indeed a treat to the eyes.

The DVD includes restoration comparisons and trailers. Available separately or as part of the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection.

Buy How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) Now

Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe star in a Broadway play adaptation, as three New York models who together rent a Sutton Place apartment in order to attract rich husbands. Their plan appears to go awry when after a few months they are forced to sell the furniture in the lavishly appointed pad for living expenses.

The girls fortunes appear to turn when Bacall meets elderly Texas cattle baron J.D. Hanley played by the debonair William Powell. Grable gets lured to Maine by wealthy but married Fred Clark but winds up falling for and marrying penniless forest ranger Rory Calhoun. The visually challenged but super sexy Monroe winds up on the wrong plane when going to meet her prospective beau in Atlantic City. She winds up enamored with and marrying tax cheat and previous owner of their apartment David Wayne, who is equally blind.

Throughout the film Bacall is pursued by a Tom Brookman played by Cameron Mitchell. She dismisses him as being a poor gas station attendant. Bacall and Powell are all set to be married but at the last moment she can't go through with it. Mitchell, who Bacall really cares for, stands in for Powell and marries her. They are all shocked when they learn that Mitchell is actually worth 200 million.

The gals have their plans dashed but wind up marrying for the right reason...........LOVE.

Read Best Reviews of How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) Here

First of all, this movie is still hysterical. It is a work of art. Although Marilyn got top billing, she's clearly out-performed by both Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable.

Let me, for a brief moment talk about the "Diamond Collection" version of How To Marry A Millionaire. When you think of remastering, especially older films made on Cineascope or Technicolor, you think of rich, vibrant-colored stories in particular the Rogers and Hammerstein collection. Excellent. You, especially, think of the remastered Disney Collection. Excellent. Both of which, were competing genres at the time Marilyn was making a name for herself. You might even throw the remastered "The Wizard of Oz" (1937) in the fray. And yet, this "Diamond Collection" is barely passable as a DVD version. This isn't a distinct restoration. The images, even in the special feature section "Restoration Comparison" shows how little the previous version and the film version hasn't had much improvement with this collection. Don't get me wrong, the sound reproduction is superb, but this is comedy and a lot depends on visuals.

Recently, I started to repurchase the Disney collection-their "Platinum 2-disc" set. Cinderella, Peter Pan. And, there is a profound difference between the last version and this deluxe version. The Sound of Music, the same thing.

This isn't to say, it's not worth watching, but there's little to no improvement in picture quality. And, that's too bad, the technology is already here and their apology for "grainy film loss" is no excuse for not investing in a better color transfer system.

Want How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) Discount?

Other reviewers do a fine job summarizing the plot and the reasons for viewing this film, so here's an overlooked morsel to savor: the opening orchestral number is the ultimate inside joke.

The number Alfred Newman conducts had been used as the title theme for the Oscar-winning movie "Gentlemen's Agreement" a half-decade earlier. While the plots of the two films are light years apart, the title of the earlier one (which had to do with anti-Semitism) addresses one of the final plot twists in "How To Marry..." In essence, the orchestra's opening performance represents a droll set-up to this delightful movie's windup, but so subtly that only Hollywood insiders would be aware of what was being done.

Funniest bit in the movie: a very lecherous Fred Clark foiled by a bridge tolltaker.

Innocent playfulness with a great Fifties cast and well worth a view.

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