“You don’t think he’s a little old?” asks Loco Dempsey. Schatze Page responds, “Oh, grow up, will you? Men with that much dough are never a little old.”
20th Century Fox responded to the rising popularity of television in the early 1950s by introducing the CinemaScope format. Henry Koster’s The Robe was the first film that would be filmed in the new format. Two more Fox productions were soon shot using the new format, including Jean Negulesco’s How To Marry A Millionaire. Although The Robe was the first film to start shooting in CinemaScope, How To Marry A Millionaire‘s short schedule allowed it to finish production ahead of The Robe (although Fox would still release The Robe first, correctly believing that the religious epic would be a good way to introduce the new format to the movie-going public). The success of The Robe would soon be followed by the success of How To Marry A Millionaire, whose success helped the new format become popular. This review of How To Marry A Millionaire is my entry in the Lauren Bacall Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.
1953’s How To Marry A Millionaire follows a trio of models who pool together their money to rent a luxurious apartment in order to land themselves rich husbands. Negulesco gathers together an impressive cast that includes Lauren Bacall (as Schatze Page), Marilyn Monroe (as Pola Dempsey), Betty Grable (as Loco Debevoise), David Wayne (as Freddie Denmark), Rory Calhoun (as Eben), Cameron Mitchell (as Tom Brookman), Alex D’Arcy (as J. Stewart Merrill), Fred Clark (as Waldo Brewster), and William Powell (as J.D. Hanley). The trio of Bacall, Monroe, and Grable make a great combination, giving performances that are just so much fun to watch. Bacall in particular is riveting as the no-nonsense Schatze (her scenes with Powell, who is always a joy to watch, are among my favorite scenes in the film). Negulesco’s strong direction draws strong performances and his shot framing makes great use of the then-new CinemaScope format.
The screenplay by Nunnally Johnson (based on the plays The Greeks Had A Word For It by Zoë Akins and Loco by Dale Eunson and Katherine Albert) follows a simple (and now outdated) premise, but Johnson’s dialogue is humorous and the performances by Bacall, Monroe, and Grable help elevate the material. Joseph MacDonald’s cinematography complements Negulesco’s framing for the CinemaScope format, and the production design by Leland Fuller and Lyle R. Wheeler is top-notch. Louis R. Loeffler’s editing keeps the film moving at a quick pace, and Travilla’s Oscar-nominated costume designs are gorgeous (particularly the outfits the models wear). Cyril Mockridge delivers a terrific score that matches the light tone of the film (curiously, Alfred Newman is shown conducting his orchestra as they perform his composition “Street Scene” prior to the start of the film). Negulesco’s How To Marry A Millionaire is a fascinating film filled with a trio of excellent female performances and makes great use of the then-new CinemaScope format.