30
Jun 04

FT Top 100 Films 73: HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE

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FT Top 100 Films
73: HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE

The worst How To… guide ever. It should rather be called “How To Marry For Love Whilst Actually Professing That All You Really Want Is Money”. Monroe, Bacall and Betty Grable are the stars lined up to save the movie industry – whilst supposedly gold digging. They were gold digging, but for box office. The film invents a the chick flick, making a bid for Hollywood’s most loyal audience to come back from the goggle box. So you get three lovely ladies in a light as fluff screwball comedy in CinemaScope.

Cinemascope was a gamble. It was bloody expensicve to install and worked on the premise that what the big screen had going for it was its bigness. Problem with Cinemascope is that you can only look one place at once. Sure you get surround visuals, sure you are “in the picture” but the action still takes place slap bang in front of you. It is next to impossible to view HTMAM on TV because of this, it being the first CinemaScope film made it spends a lot of time shifting the action around on its huge canvas. TV pans and scans it to death, background trailing like a poorly animated cartoon. But it is best understood as the key armament in films new war with television. Cinema had the STARS, the SPACE and the SENSE OF OCCASION*.

So it is strange that the film is now best understood in terms of television. This is the New York tale of three man and money hungry gold diggers with names out of a Marx Brothers movie: (Loco Dempsey, Pola Debevoise and Schatze Page). Add one more and you have Sex In The City. Especially if you line up Betty Grable, a good ten years older than her co-stars, as Samantha. And it has much the same conclusions as Sex In the City too. So was it any surprise when cinemas enemy television decided to make a TV version of How To Marry A Millionaire as a sitcom five years later starring Barbara Eden. CinemaScope is not around anymore, television is, and the Sex In The City happens generally on the box.

*Sense of occasion in this case meant a five minute orchestral introduction which is universally reviled.

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