For Reel

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
January 1, 2016, 1:14 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jean Negulesco
2.5 Stars
How to Marry a MillionaireIn an effort to lure audiences back from their television sets, Fox Production Chief Darryl Zanuck spearheaded a push towards anamorphic CinemaScope with a pair of very different epics in The Robe and How to Marry a Millionaire. While the widescreen technology was a clear fit for a biblical epic–the wider screen insisting that audiences will have more to gape at–there is a similar attraction to be found in this Jean Negulesco comedy. Here, a trio of Hollywood’s most glamorous stars (including new “it” girl Marilyn Monroe) are paraded in swimsuits and other chic outfits for the audience’s delight. The film makes such a game out of spectatorship that it withholds a sight of the beauties for the first ten minutes, which includes a prolonged overture and a title sequence that places the viewer in New York city. At its best, How to Marry a Millionaire draws attention to the act of modeling, such as one sequence where the three leads rest on perches as if they were lovebirds, smiles desperately plastered on their face. But despite Lauren Bacall’s best efforts, none of the other cast, nor Negulesco himself seem to know what to do with the material. More unfortunate is the fact that Negulesco conceives of the wider format as a way of positioning more bodies horizontally across the screen. The actors often stand next to each other and the camera needs to track back and forth to capture the crowded staging. There is very little sense of depth–everything exists on the same plane, all the figures smiling at us for approval. At its worst, the new CinemaScope process taught filmmakers to work laterally, as if any bit of unoccupied foreground was a wasted opportunity.

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