To call Dorothy Shaw (Russell) and Lorelei Lee (a never-better Monroe) gold diggers is demeaning: These showgirls would also gladly liberate rich, libido-drunk males from their cash and sparkling gems as well. In fact, diamonds—always a material girl’s best friend—happen to be Lorelei’s preferred currency. So when she discovers that Sir “Piggy” Beekman (Coburn), who owns a mine of the stuff, is aboard a Paris-bound cruise ship, the con-job flirting goes into high gear. As do the triple entendres, the showstopping set pieces featuring male gymnasts and the blackmail shenanigans, except God isn’t in the plot details of Howard Hawks’s alpha-female comedy. The divine is simply everywhere else.
Nit-picking auteurists may snipe about the filmmaker’s so-called lack of involvement—“He didn’t even direct the musical numbers,” they’ll whine. But this adaptation of the Broadway musical has Hawks’s signature all over it: Russell’s wisecracking, take-no-shit dame (the way she says “The dealer passes” after her partner makes a bubbleheaded remark is priceless); the frantic yet unflappably smooth pacing; and how Lorelei and Dorothy’s affectionate friendship takes center stage, the ultimate Hawksian touch. It may hip-wiggle behind the master’s best (Only Angels Have Wings, Rio Bravo), but you won’t find a more elegant take on ’50s va-va-voom vulgarity or a more joyous paean to the cheesecake self-empowerment of two little girls from Little Rock.—David Fear
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