I feel guilty every time I watch How to Marry a Millionaire ... and somehow I end up watching it once every couple of years. I worry I am betraying feminism by choosing to watch a movie with lines like, "Of course I want to get married. Who doesn't?" and "I know you better than you know yourself." The 1953 film follows three models who pool their money to rent a fancy apartment as part of their scheme to lure and catch rich husbands. It ought to be terribly distasteful, and indeed it is at times. By the end, I'm not particularly pleased for the women and their fates, but instead feel sorry for them. The scene in which they show off their modeling talents is almost degrading.

Despite the Fifties sexism, How to Marry a Millionaire is a lot of fun to watch, primarily due to the cast. Lauren Bacall plays the smartest of the trio of golddiggers, setting her sights on millionaire oilman William Powell, who is always charming (and a welcome relief from the usual Texas oilman stereotypes). Her roommates are Betty Grable and a bespectacled Marilyn Monroe. Monroe is wooed by a suspicious "millionaire" with an eyepatch played by Alexander D'Arcy (the singing instructor in The Awful Truth), and Grable is stuck with Fred Clark, (stuffy Mr. Babcock in Auntie Mame). If you're a fan of The Simpsons, here's your chance to see Rory Calhoun in person, playing a forest ranger, and standing and walking just like the greyhound puppy that delights Mr. Burns.

For every annoying line that recalls sexual stereotyping of the era (including Monroe's butchering of a Dorothy Parker witticism), the film offers a delightful bit of dialogue or business: Bacall trying to convince Powell that she finds older men terribly attractive: "Look at that old fellow whatshisname in The African Queen!" (who happened to be married to Bacall at the time), Grable insisting that a band on the radio must be Harry James (Grable's ex-husband), and a dream sequence in which Bacall and Monroe are both fantasizing about millionaires ... but Grable is dreaming about food. The women's resourcefulness and clever schemes are admirable even in an awful cause. How to Marry a Millionaire was one of the first films shot in Cinemascope, and the wide aspect ratio is preserved on DVD. You can enjoy every guilt-inducing moment in gorgeous color and sound.
categories Features, Cinematical