Friday, May 04, 2018

Tonight's Movie: How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) at the TCM Classic Film Festival

My first full day of movies at the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival mostly consisted of lighthearted fare, with four musicals and/or comedies preceding the late evening screening of the melodrama LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945).

Number three for the day was HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953), shown in a digital print and introduced by new TCM host Dave Karger. Although my records show I saw this film many years ago, it's the rare film where I had zero memory of a past viewing, so it felt as though I were watching it for the very first time!

This 1953 film was also the "newest" film I saw at this year's festival, with the exception of BULL DURHAM (1988). Most of the films I saw at the festival dated from the late silent era through the mid '40s.

HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE is one in a long line of 20th Century-Fox films about three girls looking for wealthy husbands; past Fox titles with this theme included THREE BLIND MICE (1938), MOON OVER MIAMI (1941), and THREE LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE (1946). MOON OVER MIAMI starred Betty Grable, also one of the stars of HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, a dozen years later.

As an interesting side note, HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE was partly based on a play by Zoe Akins, who wrote the story for GIRLS ABOUT TOWN (1931), seen at the festival the next day. Akins' great-great-niece, Zoe Perry -- who is also the daughter of actress Laurie Metcalf (LADY BIRD) -- was at the festival to help introduced GIRLS ABOUT TOWN.

HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE memorably opens with an orchestral prologue of Alfred Newman's "Street Scene," showing off the new-fangled widescreen CinemaScope and stereophonic sound. "Street Scene," which originated in the 1931 film of the same name, was used in many Fox films; it's particularly familiar to many classic film fans as the opening credits theme music in many classic Fox noir titles, such as I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941), THE DARK CORNER (1946), and CRY OF THE CITY (1948).

After "Street Scene" and the opening credits we dive into the story, in which three women carry out a plan to rent an upscale furnished apartment and nab wealthy husbands. The women are Schatze (Lauren Bacall), Loco (Betty Grable), and Pola (Marilyn Monroe).

The "plan" includes pawning the apartment's furnishings to come up with rent money, and before long the apartment is nearly empty. Then the women think they may have hit the jackpot, as Schatze meets kind and wealthy J.D. Hanley (William Powell), and the other girls meet potential "prospects," but nothing goes as planned; Schatze keeps thinking about the nice young man (Cameron Mitchell) who accompanied Loco home with groceries, while Loco falls for a forest ranger (Rory Calhoun) and Pola "meets cute" with the man (David Wayne) from whom they're subleasing the apartment -- who's on the run from the IRS!

The movie is an entertaining, colorful 95 minutes, although it has minor problems. The main issue is that Bacall seems too intelligent to be comfortable with her as, essentially, a crook selling off furniture that isn't hers. The concept works better with the lighthearted, giddy Grable and Monroe, who have an innocence to them, but Bacall's character knows exactly what she's doing, and it's is later accepting money from a suitor to redeem the furniture.

It's also a bit odd that Monroe's character falls for a potential crook, even though it's explained he's searching for his accountant who swindled him.

Otherwise, the movie is pretty much exactly what one wants, with gorgeous sets and gowns, consistently well-played humorous bits (Monroe has some funny stuff about her need for glasses), some romance, and a terrific, well-played ending, as Schatze gets the shock of her life.

HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE was directed by Jean Negulesco and filmed by Joe MacDonald.

The movie is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and VHS.

Coming soon: Overviews of my daily festival viewing schedules and additional reviews.


Blogger Bill O said...

Since this originally was intended as the first Cinewonderramascope release, the street scene prologue was there to teach the audience how to absorb the wide screen, as the camera slowly tracks from one end to the other.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Brittaney said...

This is a favorite of mine and I've seen it many times. There is an earlier film starring Janet Gaynor, Loretta Young and Constance Bennett called Ladies in Love, which features a very similar plot.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I saw this years ago, but really remember very little! Maybe it's simply one of those entertaining, yet weirdly forgettable movies.

4:23 PM  

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