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HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (director: Jean Negulesco; screenwriters: from the play The Greeks Had a Word for It by Zoë Akins, and the play Loco by Dale Eunson and Katherine Albert/Nunnally Johnson; cinematographer: Joe MacDonald; editor: Louis Loeffler; music: Alfred Newman and Cyril J. Mockridge; cast: Betty Grable (Loco Dempsey), Marilyn Monroe (Pola Debevoise), Lauren Bacall (Schatze Page), David Wayne (Freddie Denmark), Rory Calhoun (Eben), Cameron Mitchell (Tom Brookman), Fred Clark (Waldo Brewster), William Powell (J.D. Hanley), Alexander D’Arcy (J. Stewart Merrill), Percy Helton (Real-Estate Agent, Benton); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nunnally Johnson; 20th Century Fox; 1953)
“The humor is not only flat but outdated.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This was the first CinemaScope film ever made but second to be released (The Robe was the first ‘Scope film released). It opens with an eight-minute concert with Alfred Newman conducting the 20th Century Fox studio orchestra in a piece entitled Street Scene, that was designed to promote the new stereo system used. It’s a remake of The Greeks Had a Word for Them (1933-starring Madge Evans, Ina Claire, and Joan Blondell) and a feeble followup to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, using almost the same tired story, as cynical divorcee Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall) and her two bimbo single girlfriends Pola Debevoise (Marilyn Monroe) and Loco Dempsey(Betty Grable) turn their Manhattan luxury pad into a place to trap rich bachelors. The film seems about exploiting Monroe’s recent celebrity, who happens to be the only reason for seeing this slack rehashed comedy about the familiar golddiggers theme. Also the film made little use of its new toy in filming, as it could have easily been filmed in regular Technicolor and not suffered a bit.

Warning: spoiler to follow in next paragraph.

Real-estate agent Benton (Percy Helton) sublets the luxury penthouse apartment of Freddie Denmark (David Wayne) for a year to Lauren Bacall. She’s an embittered recent divorcee, whose phony hubby lied about having money and to the bargain was already married. The cunning Bacall cooks up a scheme for all three model roommates, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, to hook a millionaire by posing as wealthy women. Soon Grable brings home Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell), whom she met at the deli-counter of a supermarket and who has paid for the groceries besides carting them home. Bacall rejects him as a nobody, but Brookman who is really a multi-millionaire in real-estate investments, falls for Bacall and tries to date her. Bacall keeps rejecting him because she’s sure he’s the gas station attendant type. Thev short-sighted Marilyn is as blind as a bat without her glasses but refuses to wear them thinking guys would think her ugly. She lands eye-patch wearing J. Stewart Merrill (Alexander D’Arcy), who Bacall spots as a phony posing as an oilman. Marilyn is to meet Stewart’s mother in Atlantic City, but takes the wrong plane and winds up going instead to Kansas City. On the plane she meets her landlord Freddie Denmark, who is just as blind as she is without glasses–except he wears them. Freddie’s in trouble with the income tax man because his accountant stole his money and he is on-the-lam trying to straighten out his tax evasion problem, and through some mysterious romantic moments director Jean Negulesco failed to show on the screen they fall in love and marry off-camera. Grable meets married businessman Waldo Brewster (Fred Clark) , who convinces her to spend the week-end in his country lodge in Maine. She goes there thinking she’s attending an Elks Lodge meeting, and when she realizes her mistake comes down with the measles and has to remain there for a week. After recovery, she goes skiing and falls in love with the handsome but modest-income forest ranger Eben (Rory Calhoun) and quickly marries him–proving she’s no gold-digger. The 26-year-old Bacall is poised to marry the 56-year-old nice guy Texas cattleman J.D. Hanley (William Powell), whom she met through Grable’s pickup of him in the fur department of Bergdorf-Goodman’s swank department store, but jilts him at the altar to marry Brookman for love while still thinking he’s poor (we’re expected to swallow she never got around to asking him what he did).

Watching “Millionaire” at this late date, the humor is not only flat but outdated. The men in the gals’ life all seem bland, just like the film. And for the scheming ladies, the Greeks certainly had a word for it as did the feminists and some alimony stuck men.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”