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How to Marry a Millionaire(1953)

Sixty-five years ago, writer-producer Nunnally Johnson dusted off Zoe Akins’ 1930 play “The Greeks Had a Word for It” to create a showcase for three of the screen’s biggest stars: Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. The idea of turning a simplistic plot into a talent showcase was nothing new in Hollywood. Samuel Goldwyn had first filmed the play in 1932, with Joan Blondell, Madge Evans and Ina Claire. Remakes followed in 1938 (Three Blind Mice) and 1941 (Moon Over Miami), along with dozens of imitations. In this version—shot in glorious Cinemascope—the three women are fashion models who pool their resources to rent a posh apartment they hope to use to attract marriage proposals from wealthy men. It doesn’t quite turn out that way but it certainly leads to some great comic situations, particularly for Monroe as a near-sighted model who steadfastly refuses to wear her glasses. It’s a surprising revelation as to which woman lands her prey (it’s a shock within the film too), but along the way they mix it up with William Powell, David Wayne, Rory Calhoun and Cameron Mitchell. The film was such a hit that director Jean Negulesco transplanted the story to Rome a year later for Three Coins in the Fountain. (d. Jean Negulesco, 95m, Digital)

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