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20th Century Fox presents
How To Marry A Millionaire (1953)

"The way most people go about it, they use more brains picking a horse in the third at Belmont than they do picking a husband."
- Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall)

Review By: Jesse Shanks   
Published: May 09, 2001

Stars: Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall
Other Stars: David Wayne, Rory Calhoun, Cameron Mitchell, William Powell
Director: Jean Negulesco

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:35m:38s
Release Date: May 29, 2001
UPC: 024543014270
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-AB+ C+

DVD Review

When watching a movie like How To Marry A Millionaire, one is struck by the seeming naïveté of the humor. As I watched, I wondered if a movie could get away with comedy of this type in this cynical day and age; my thought is that innocent humor like this would come off as particularly corny if transported to a more modern setting. Many of the jokes here are based on stereotypes and conventions that no longer exist, if they ever really did anywhere besides the silver screen. But this type of innocent humor does form the basis of many a television sitcom.

How To Marry A Millionaire was the first film made with Cinemascope, although The Robe was the first released. There are many stunt sequences used to attend to the new widescreen format, dubbed "The Modern Miracle." Fortunately, they are not totally overt as in the case of some 3-D movies that have effect shots that, when seen in normal view, are quite annoying. Here there are lingering vistas, shots of New York City with huge ships cruising up the river, an obligatory trip to see the Statue of Liberty and a long intro with many views of a full orchestra, playing Street Scene, composed and conducted by musical director Alfred Newman.

The stunts are quite incidental to a very charming story with a very appealing triumvirate of actresses. The production code was still in full force, but Millionaire does not skate as close to the edge as other "sex" comedies of this era. Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall), a recent divorcée, uses the last of her funds from her settlement to rent an expensive apartment. She invites her two model friends, Pola Debevoise (Marilyn Monroe) and Loco Dempsey (Betty Grable), to live with her and participate in her master plan for each of them to win husbands who are "holding" (rich).

The apartment is owned by financier Freddie Denmark (David Wayne) and Mrs. Page utilizes the confusion surrounding his having to flee the country with tax problems to sell off the contents of the apartment to finance their "man hunt". Loco has a demonstrated ability to go to the store with no money and, with the right "attitude," attract men who'll not only pay the bill but help her bring her purchases back to the apartment. Although this generally leads to her attracting what Schatze refers to as unsuitable "gas pump jockeys," Loco does finally bring home an oilman who invites them all to a party that will feature a room full of millionaires—and the hunt is on!

Marilyn Monroe is very charming in her role as she goes around nearly blind because she believes men will not be attentive to a girl with glasses. This seems to be one of Marilyn's most secure performances as she shows a definite comfort in the role's comic limitations. Coming on the heels of her performances in Niagra and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, by the end of 1953 Marilyn was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. There is a reference to Gentlemen as Marilyn models a diamond-encrusted bathing suit and the saleswoman intones, "You know, of course, that diamonds are a girl's best friend. And this is our proof of it."

Lauren Bacall has not really made many outstanding films in her long career. In fact, most of her reputation rests on her earliest roles opposite Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep and Key Largo. Bacall is one of those actresses who is memorable beyond her actual film work. There is cute joke in the movie when her character is describing her attraction to older men and mentions "that old man in The African Queen" (referring to real-life husband, Bogart).

Betty Grable at 38 was much older than the character she is playing in the film. A Hollywood fixture and perhaps best known as a pin-up girl, Grable was near the end of her career at the time Millionaire was made. It also seems to be near the end of the type of character she was playing: the sassy yet innocent, wise-cracking gal that was so popular in the 1930s and '40s. Grable also gets an in-joke when her character fails to recognize the music of her real-life husband, bandleader Harry James.

The men in their lives are solid performances and do get off some comic moments. Cameron Mitchell portrays the rich man who won't reveal his wealth and is treated condescendingly by Schatze. David Wayne is very funny as the financier on the lam. Rory Calhoun is stalwart as the poor forest ranger who comes to the rescue of Loco when she consents to take a trip to Maine with the less-than-honorably-intentioned Waldo Brewster, played by familiar character actor Fred Clark. William Powell is very effective as the millionaire who romances Schatze.

The overall story is lightweight and certainly rooted in its time. But, How To Marry A Millionaire is imminently watchable and is very entertaining, both for itself and as part of the Monroe filmography. The central humor of the movie—the idea of love versus money—still resonates through the relationships of men and women and provides the most timeless aspect of the comedy.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.55:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection contains some amazing film restoration work and How To Marry A Millionaire is one of them. Presented in the original 2.55:1 aspect ratio, this anamorphic transfer is simply gorgeous. Any memory I have of watching this film on grainy television or video has been completely wiped away. There is hardly a visible flaw to be mentioned and the skin tones and colors are a feast for the eyes. Great attention was paid to screen composition for the Cinemascope format and there are some lovely visuals. I particularly enjoyed the fashion show sequence, in which Marilyn shows that something OTHER than diamonds just might be "a girl's best friend."

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Stereophonic sound was fairly new in this era. The audio transfer on this disc features a particularly fine delineation of the stereo tracks to map the dialogue to the character position in the frame. I was constantly impressed with the detail of the work done, including sound effects like offscreen dialog and phone calls. There is even a great difference between dialogue in close shots and longer shots. Overall, just an outstanding job. The Dolby 4.0 stereo provides mostly enhancement of the musical soundtrack. The regular stereo track is very good. The French mono is sufficient (and actually quite fun.)

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Diamond Collection, Bus Stop, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, There's No Business Like Show Business, The Seven Year Itch
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Restoration Comparison
  2. Movietone News: How To Marry A Millionaire in Cinemascope
Extras Review: This disc contains a few extras. The German and Italian versions of the trailer are entertaining. There is a short Movietone News segment, How To Marry A Millionaire in Cinemascope (01m:19s) about the premiere of How To Marry A Millionaire, which features several celebrity shots, including a particularly lovely Marilyn and "that old man from The African Queen." The Restoration Comparison describes and demonstrates the work done in transferring the film to the digitalformat. Not spectacular in the extras category.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Fox called it "The Most Glamourous Entertainment of Your Lifetime in Cinemascope." Three models rent a posh apartment in Manhattan, looking to strike gold or oil or cattle or jewels or something valuable among the hapless rich men of New York. When those models are Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe, there is definitely "glamourous entertainment". What follows is an charming comedy about love and money in the 1950s.


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