Wednesday, March 21, 2012

“So gentlemen prefer blondes, do they?”

The opening line of MGM’s topnotch treatment of Red-Headed Woman is an inside joke: 
the line, of course, is a reference to Anita Loos’ book Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, published in 1925. 
The joke is that Jean Harlow's blonde hair was already the star's trademark, and that the screenplay of Woman was written by none other than Loos herselfapparently after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s effort fizzled.

The accepted story, repeated by numerous Fitzgerald biographers, has it that the Fitzgerald script (produced with collaborator Marcel de Sano) was deemed too somber, and was tossed aside. In all fairness to Mr. Fitzgerald, it should be pointed out that Kay's original novel does not contain muchif anyof the humor to be found in MGM's realized adaptation. (By his own account, the experience left Fitzgerald more than a little disillusioned with Hollywood.) According to This is on Me, Loos was with the project from the beginning, and Fitzgerald a seemingly minor player. I'm not quite sure who to believe, but it would seem that Kay’s recollection in this instance is faulty. In any event, it’s Loos’ name in the opening credits, not Fitzgerald’s.

The picture premiered on June 25, 1932, and was an instant hit.

My favorite line in the movie? Lillian Andrews, trying on a dress in a shop (and standing in front of a sunny window), demurely asks the (off-camera) shopgirl 
“can you see through this?”  “I’m afraid you can, miss,” answers the shopgirl. 
I’ll wear it,” comes Lil’s unexpected reply. It occurs within the first 2 minutes 
of the movie, and it lets us know right from the outset just what sort of picture 
this is going to be: 
a quick, caustic biography of an alert, successful strumpet, according to Time.

Jean Harlow (seated) and Anita Loos cutting up for MGM's publicity department

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