Bacall, Monroe and Grable Show Us “How To Marry A Millionaire”


Review by Trylon volunteer Caty Rent

How To Marry A Millionaire is a light but lively romantic comedy from 1953, also the first comedy to be shot in CinemaScope. The cast packs a punch with Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall all starring together in glorious Technicolor. Grable landed top-billing, but Monroe’s name came first in all the ads and posters. In the end, it is Bacall’s performance that has the most weight to it.

Bacall plays Schatze Page, the brunette femme fatale and most intelligent one of the trio. Schatze rents a glamourous pre-furnished apartment from a mysterious man. She convinces her blonde friends Pola Debvoise (Monroe) and Loco Dempsey (Grable) to go in on her scheme. The premise is simple, three models on the loose in New York City looking to bag millionaire husbands. Schatze tells the girls, “if you want to catch a mouse, set a mouse trap. So all right, we set a bear trap!”

Schatze carries herself with a sort of stiffness and sophistication that is only matched by her wit. Pola and Loco provide heavy doses on comicality on their own terms. Pola is blind as a bat, but doesn’t want to wear her glasses in front of men. She is very clumsy throughout the picture, walking into doors, tables, people, etc. It is amusing to see such a voluptuous woman bang into things. Now Loco is “very clever with a quarter,” but often misconstrues situations and is usually found eating something.

Loco meets Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell) by persuading him to buy her groceries when they met at the cold cuts counter. He helps carry the groceries up to the apartment, but Schatze dismisses him when she first sees him. She claims that he has to be a “gas pump jockey,” because she was married to one and can spot them a mile away. As it turns out, although he doesn’t dress or act like one, Tom actually is a millionaire. He has the eyes for Schatze, but doesn’t tell her how much money he has. He calls persistently until she eventually caves and goes out on dates with him, always finishing with the phrase, “then I never want to see you again.”

Their big break is when Loco meets J.D. Hanley (William Powell) in the mink department. J.D. Is a dapper, older gentleman and asks the girls to come to a big dinner party where there would be loads of tycoons. They each find a man to spend the evening out with. Schatze and J.D. are at one table together, Loco and the hard boiled complainer Waldo Brewster (Fred Clark) at another table, and Pola with the eye-patch wearing international playboy Stuart Merill (Alexander D’Arcy).

Schatze and J.D. hit it off, but she still can’t stop thinking about Tom. Loco finds out Waldo is a married man but still goes with him to his lodge in Maine, which she thinks going to be an Elk’s Lodge Convention and is sorely mistaken.  During that time Loco meets a studly and sweet Forest Ranger named Eben (Rory Calhoun). Pola plans to meet Stuart in Atlantic City, but accidentally ends up on a plane heading to Kansas City instead. As it turns out, she is sitting next to the mysterious man that owns the apartment she shares. Freddie Denmark (David Wayne) is a fugitive of the law because of a check that was never given to the government.

Ultimately all of the girls succeed in finding husbands, but only one of them to a millionaire. They all choose with their hearts and not with their heads, violating one of the ground rules of the game. In the beginning they are all very materialistic, but throughout the course of the film they realize that happiness is more important than money. This is a very playful picture with beautiful scenery and great orchestration that really helps set the tone. –Caty Rent

Caty Rent is a confirmed ghost story and horror film addict.

How To Marry a Millionaire screens Friday and Saturday, February 13 and 14 at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, February 15 at 5:00 and 7:00.  This is the first feature to be shown on our exciting new DCP projection system! You can order advance tickets here.


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