The Film Experience’s Hit Me with Your Best Shot heads to classic Hollywood this week, for one of those great movies that were really beautifully shot that you don’t think about being beautifully shot: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, directed by the great Howard Hawks. It’s a charmingly cynical romp in which a sweet-natured gold digger played by Marilyn Monroe and her lustful best friend Jane Russell are on a man hunt, and get everything they want: money, the love of good men, and no threat to their rock-solid friendship. I’ve said my piece on the movie before, so I won’t rehash it, though I’ll reiterate that this my second-favorite Monroe vehicle ever, behind Some Like It Hot.
Time to pick a best shot, though, and that’s easily done: clearly it’s an image of Monroe in that hot-pink dress with white gloves cooing that “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”. So clearly, in fact, that I couldn’t possibly bring myself to pick it. One must have some level of creativity in these things. So my runner-up is below the jump, for two reasons: one is that it’s a huge .gif, and the other is that it’s the very last shot in the movie, and while I hope everyone has seen this movie as many times as I have and loved it as much as I do, I get that it’s 2016 and the film is 63 years old. So spoiler alert, if you click the below link.
Lorelei Lee (Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Russell) have fought for a lot to get to this moment, and have throughout been each other’s best support and cheering section. And that’s why I love above all things that the final moment of the movie has nothing to do with the men they’ve snagged, or the money they’ve won. It’s all about those two women, sharing a glow in their moment of victory.
The movie is 100% aware of this, and that’s why we get that push-in, I think: it forces the moment to be about the women in a way that a simple two-shot couldn’t be. The men marrying Lorelei and Dorothy are literally cut out of this image as it progresses. It’s not simply that Hawks would have us thinking about the two protagonists in this moment: he’s asking us to notice that we’re not thinking about their future husbands, or the life they’ll live now that their single days are over. That push-in calls attention to what the final frame eliminates as much as what it depicts.
But of course, what it depicts matters. It’s not enough that it’s two women sharing a frame, cozily lit, matching in their bridal dresses (I doubt very much that man’s man Hawks was thinking in these terms, but taken as a still image, it could easily be assumed that we’re watching a lesbian wedding). What really sells it for me is that happy, wise look they share, right there at the end: conspirators warmly acknowledging how successful they’ve been, congratulating each other. Even if there’s not meant to be any homoerotic subtext – and again, I think that would be a pretty severe overreading – there’s little denying that the notion that these women are one another’s best life partner, more than any man could be, is obviously the driving force behind this shot. The framing are the acting – Russell’s sly little eye movements are especially great – are both perfectly attuned to leave us with that impression, and to be enormously gratified to think that married life will have no effect on the terrific BFF-ship we’ve just spent an hour and a half enjoying. It’s a great beat to end on, and a great way to let us visually share in the triumph of these two little girls from Little Rock.