Movies I Need To See Before I Die: HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953)


(This is a column where I review movies that I have never seen, but SHOULD have.  Being a film Geek, I have seen a ton of films.  But life is also very short, and for one reason or another, there are quite a few flicks that I have never got to.  Sure, it probably doesn’t matter if I ever see a movie like PARENTAL GUIDANCE, but a movie like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA…. well, I should have seen that already.  I’m a film geek for God’s sake!  I have now decided that I should get on that before I get too old.  I have compiled a list of films that I WANT or NEED to watch, and am going to start watching them when I have spare time.  So I will randomly be posting reviews of movies that I have always wanted or needed to see.  Enjoy!)

I enjoy a good screwball comedy from the 50’s.  I also love Marilyn Monroe, though I haven’t seen too much from her.  But I’ve seen the classics (SOME LIKE IT HOT, SEVEN YEAR ITCH, and GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES).  This was one of those I have never seen.

Three women move into a high-class New York City apartment with one plan on their agenda:  To snag a rich husband.  First, there’s Schatze (Lauren Bacall), a recent divorcee who always seems to fall for gas station attendants.  Well, she has vowed never to make that same mistake again.  Then we have Pola (Monroe), a dim-witted blonde who is too embarrassed to put on her glasses, because it’s not fashionable.  So instead, she just runs into everything.  And finally there is Loco (Betty Grable) who seems to have rotten luck with men. They each find a suitor (or two).  Schatze is pursued by Tom Brookman, who is loaded with money, but since he doesn’t brag about it she just assumes he’s poor.  Besides, Schatze has her sights on an older gentlemen (William Powell) who is also loaded.  Pola is going after a one-eyed duke, and Loco meets a married rich guy, but ends up falling for a forest ranger while they’re on vacation.

And….. that’s about it.  The whole movie is about the 3 dames looking for rich husbands so they don’t have to work anymore.  Now, I love these type of screwball comedies, but I found it really hard to like this movie.  The main problem with it is that the 3 lead characters are not very likable at all.  I mean, finding a rich husband so they don’t have to work anymore?  Don’t they have ambitions or dreams?  I can’t really respect anyone that just wants a free lunch.  I’m sure things were different back then, but even so…. it seemed very sexist.

The movie does have a unique distinction.  It’s the first movie to be shot in Cinemascope (widescreen), though it was the second one released (THE ROBE was released first).  It begins with a curtain opening, revealing a full orchestra performing the overture for the film.  I thought this was cool.  The movie looks great.  Loved the color and the shots of New York.  The film also has some mildly amusing bits that made me smile.  I did think there was some good playful moments between Schatze and Tom.  And there’s a running joke with Pola constantly running things since she can’t see without her glasses which made me laugh on occasion.  But more often than not, the humor falls flat.  There are some moments in the movie that suggest the film is setting up a gag, but then there is no punchline.  The pacing is also a bit sluggish at times.  I thought all the stuff with Loco’s character brings the movie to a complete halt.  Not interesting at all.

The acting is fine.  That’s not the reason why the movie fails.  Lauren Bacall has a wonderful wit about her, though she looked too old for the character.  I don’t think she was 30 yet, but she looked 40.  Just something about her saying she was in her mid-20’s made it hard to swallow.  Her acting is fine though.  Marilyn Monroe has a few shining moments, but her character wasn’t fully fleshed out.  She’s been better.  Betty Grable was a HUGE star back in the 40’s and 50’s.  Even a bigger star than Monroe.  This movie doesn’t really show why though.  William Powell is decent in a thankless roll.  I did like David Wayne as a guy who is on the run from the law, who takes a fancy to Pola.

The direction is a bit of a mixed bag.  The cinematography is gorgeous, but the editing needed to be a little snappier.  This was supposed to be a screwball comedy, but there just was no energy in any of the film’s shots.  The script is the film’s biggest problem.  Those girls just aren’t that likable, though the actresses do their best.  Even if the film was funny sometimes, it’s hard to get behind characters that are lazy and shallow.  I didn’t want any of them to get married to anyone by the end of the movie.  They didn’t deserve it.  I’m going to take a wild guess and say that the filmmakers probably didn’t set out to make unlikable characters, but that’s what happened here.

Despite some good work from Bacall and Monroe, this comedy ends up feeling flat.  How many people want to watch a movie with a bunch of selfish women who want to find a rich husband so they don’t ever have to work again?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  Maybe if the movie had a playful energy, it could have been more pleasant to sit through.  I found it to be a rather cynical film.  I was disappointed.  ★★ (out of ★★★★)

– Not rated but contains some mild innuendos.  I could see the MPAA rating it PG today. 

– Running time: 1hr 35min.



Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Movies I Need To See Before I Die, Reviews

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