I watched the film on a plane ride back from the US, and had to spend a considerable amount of time trying not to shake too much with laughter and wake up the passenger sitting next to me. Most of all, I was amazed by Marilyn Monroe’s sheer presence. Watch this scene — it takes a certain ability to do what she does here, right down to that tone of voice.
A couple of weeks later, I watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – let’s just say that my reaction was somewhere between active distaste and near-indifference. I remember discussing with a friend once, that there was as much guano to be found in the old movies as in the new ones — we just manage to pick the good ones in hindsight. Except in case of GPB, our hindsight was a little impaired.
While Monroe played versions of roughly the same character in both films (ditzy blond on the lookout for a rich guy), in SLIH, she seemed to project a certain innocence that was incredibly appealing, whereas in GPB, the cynicism and self-awareness was a lot more apparent. She has her moments in the latter, but is never spectacular. And I remember thinking, she was a lot more fun to watch when she didn’t know how good she really was.
And then of course I found out that Some Like It Hot came out in 1959, a full six years after Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She had been through twenty-five films, thirty-three years and three marriages by then; three years and three films later, she’d be dead of a barbiturate overdose. How on earth did she manage to deliver a performance of such freshness?