Some of the greatest films from the larger-than-life career of Marilyn Monroe are represented in Forever Marilyn, a new seven-disc Blu-ray set that includes five films from Monroe’s prime making their Blu-ray debuts alongside the previously released Some Like it Hot and The Misfits. Each film is also available on Blu-ray separately. The five new-to-Blu-ray films were produced consecutively between 1953 and 1955 for Twentieth Century Fox, and strong high-def transfers for the lot make this set an excellent upgrade from their respective DVD versions.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) is an extraordinary musical directed by Howard Hawks, co-starring Monroe and Jane Russell as singers aboard a ship to Paris. Russell’s Dorothy Shaw is fairly down-to-earth, but Monroe’s Lorelei Lee is a straight-up gold-digger who’s hit the jackpot with wealthy nebbish Gus Esmond Jr. (Tommy Noonan). With Esmond unable to join them, Dorothy and Lorelei make the trip to Paris alone, and Lorelei’s eye wanders toward a wealthy old diamond miner (Charles Coburn). Little does she know, her fidelity is being tracked by an onboard spy.
Hawks directs the film’s musical numbers with uncommon energy and verve — Russell’s “Anyone Here for Love” deserves to be as iconic as Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” — and the chemistry with Russell offers Monroe one of her best on-screen foils/companions of her career. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was produced right before CinemaScope took hold, and its full-frame transfer here is superb. Colors are tight and vibrant, fine detail is abundant and damage is very minor. Extras are sparse — only a brief archival snippet from Monroe and Russell’s handprint ceremony and trailers.
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) is an entertaining bit of fluff with an ensemble cast that gives Monroe the shortest end of the stick. Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall star as three Manhattan models determined to attract a higher class of men. They pool all their resources into securing a lavish penthouse apartment and begin the search for wealthy eligible bachelors. They have little trouble finding some, but infatuations with other, poorer suitors may be the downfall to their plan.
The film keeps the exploits of its three leads fairly cloistered, and it’s Bacall who gets the best part here, both in screen time and witty one-liners. Director Jean Negulesco isn’t nearly as successful as Hawks at portraying gold-digging characters without sliding into some implicit misogyny, but it’s not like anyone was expecting anything too progressive here, right? Technically, the film was quite progressive though, as this was Fox’s first CinemaScope film produced (although not the first released). The new technology isn’t quite at its best in this decent transfer — colors aren’t exceptionally stable and opticals display a half-second major image degradation before it clicks back in to normal. Overall, the increased clarity and detail makes for a solid improvement over DVD. Extras include trailers and a brief newsreel piece on the film’s premiere.