If you haven't seen the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, you may believe, mistakenly, that the most memorable scene is the musical number you've probably seen, or seen parodied: Marilyn Monroe in her pink dress singing "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." Those of us who have seen this movie are aware that there is a far more bizarrely memorable musical number, one that does not even involve Monroe in any way. The number centers around Monroe's costar in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Jane Russell, who turns 85 today.
Russell's character, Dorothy Shaw, is stuck on a cruise ship with the entire Olympic team -- but they're all on strict curfews and regimens, so she can't touch them. She walks into the ship's gymnasium and launches into the song, "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love." The song is full of sports metaphors and slight, tame double-entendres. But the song itself is not what burned itself on my brain when I saw this movie for the first time, but rather the visuals. Russell, wearing what may be the most phallic earrings in cinematical history, is surrounded by a gym full of identically dressed athletic men, all clad in nothing but flesh-colored shorts. In a rare gender-role switch for Hollywood, she treats them all like objects, running her hands over muscles here and there. Meanwhile, the men practically ignore her, and continue working out with one another and exercising around her in synchronization. By the end of the number, Russell is dripping wet (from the swimming pool) and surrounded by the athletes, who are all embracing one another while they glorify her. You don't need Vito Russo to tell you that this scene is dripping with homoeroticism.
Truly, the "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love" musical number must be seen to be believed. Rent Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and you'll understand. Perhaps this scene is a premonition of that Anita Loos interview in the 1970s when she said that if she were writing her famous novella at that time, it might have been called Gentlemen Prefer Gentlemen.