How To Marry a Millionaire (1953): Comedy, Starring Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall

A remake of 1933’s “The Greeks Had a Word for Them,” Fox’s hugely popular melodrana, “How to Marry a Millionaire,” was the first Hollywood comedy to be shot in Cinemascope.

Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe play three models of modest means who rent an expensive Manhattan executive penthouse and pose as women of wealth.

It’s a scheme hatched by Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall), the shrewdest of the trio, to snare rich husbands for herself and her roommates.

Sporting glasses, Monroe plays the near-sighted Pola, who is wooed by an international playboy, but ends up settling for the tax-dodging fugitive (David Wayne), who owns the girls’ apartment.

The knuckle-headed Grable goes off on an illicit weekend in the mountains with a grouchy married executive (Fred Clark), but falls instead for a poor but handsome forest ranger (Rory Calhoun).

Bacall nearly gets an aging millionaire (William Powell), but her conscience bothers her and instead she goes for the poverty-stricken chap (Cameron Mitchell) who has been pursuing her all along. Not to worry: It turns out that he is one of the richest men in New York.

Before the opening credits in “How to Marry a Millionaire,” there was a “live” orchestral rendition of Alfred Newman’s “Street Scene” overture, conducted by Newman.

Marilyn’s 20th film was her first in CinemaScope (and the second CinemaScope film ever made, after the historical epic, “The Robe”).

As it turns out, Marilyn replaced her co-star, Betty Grable, who had reigned for a decade as a pin-up girl, as Fox’s most popular actress.

This movie marked the fourth and last appearance of David Wayne in a Monroe picture, more than any other actor, though thtere was no particularly strong chemistry between them.

By standards of the 1950s, this romantic comedy was very popular—the fifth top-grossing picture of the year—catapulting the fast-rising Monroe to major stardom.

“How to Marry a Millionaire” was also the first presentation of the NBC series Saturday Night at the Movies, premiering on TV on September 23, 1961.

Credits

Twentieth Century Fox

Running time: 96 Minutes.

Directed by Jean Negulesco.

Screenplay: Nunnally Johnson, based on the plays by Zoë Akins, Dale Eunson, and Katherine Albert.

Released: November 11, 1953

DVD: May 29, 2001

 

Cast

Betty Grable as Loco Dempsey

Marilyn Monroe as Pola Debevoise

Lauren Bacall as Schatze Page

David Wayne as Freddie Denmark

Rory Calhoun as Eben

Cameron Mitchell as Tom Brookman

 

Oscar Nominations: 1

Costume Design (color): Charles LeMaire and Travilla

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner was LeMaire, but for another picture, “The Robe,” on which he collaborated with Emile Santiago.

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