Thursday, January 19, 2012

Comparing and Contrasting: "A Lady Loves" vs. "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend"

I know that this post is going to be a bit strange amongst all the hipster music, but I am a huge fan of old-school musicals.

Right! So in 1953, there were tons of new musicals released. There were a lot of classic musicals, like Peter Pan and The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T and The Band Wagon and Kiss Me, Kate (which, interestingly enough, was originally released in 2-d and 3-d). And another classic that came out in 1953 was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, what is arguably the best and most iconic Marilyn Monroe film. It features the musical number "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," which has been parodied and mocked more than almost any other musical number in history ("We're Off to See the Wizard," "The Sound of Music," and "Singin' in the Rain" are the only things that even come close).

I Love Melvin was also released in 1953, four months prior to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I Love Melvin is an early romantic comedy musical about Judy (Debbie Reynolds) and Melvin (Donald O'Connor). Judy has dreams of becoming a Broadway starlet when she meets Melvin, an aspiring photographer for Look! Magazine. Melvin insists that he can make her a cover girl, which is lucky, because it's the only way Judy's father will let her pick Melvin over Harry (Richard Anderson). The catch is of course, that Melvin can't make Judy a cover girl. I Love Melvin is a very cute and comical film with songwriting by Mack Gordon ("Chattanooga Choo-Choo") and Josef Myrow ("Autumn Nocturne"), known for their collaboration on "You Make Me Feel So Young." Melvin is, for the most part, an ignored film.

So why bring it up? What's the connection? Well, apart from the fact that I absolutely love I Love Melvin, there are some incredible similarities between the musical numbers "A Lady Loves" from Melvin and "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I find this intriguing seeing as the more iconic number was actually released after Melvin.


"A Lady Loves" from I Love Melvin Featuring Debbie Reynolds.

"Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Featuring Marilyn Monroe.

So let's look at what we've got here: I Love Melvin was released March 20th, 1953 by MGM, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was released July 18th, 1953 by 20th Century Fox. The films have different composers, directors, set designers and art directors. The film plots in general have nothing to do with one another. Yet there is an undeniable correlation between the two musical numbers. Both songs center around what "girls/ladies" really like, and portray women as at least a little bit materialistic. The sets are both adorned with swooping fabrics and chandeliers. Monroe and Reynolds both wear pink dresses with a bit of a bustle and no straps, pink gloves, and "diamond" bracelets and chokers (two bracelets each). The dances both rely heavily on arm gestures and male back-up dancers with flares of red in their costumes. "A Lady Loves" closes with the men freezing with their hats around Reynolds' face, while "Diamonds" ends with the men holding swatches of diamonds around Monroe's face.

What can we draw from this? My research indicates that the stage version of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" was not staged or decorated the same as the film version. Did Gentlemen Prefer Blondes decide to copy their musical number from the far less successful I Love Melvin? Or is it just a coincidence? I am reminded of the wonderfully informative video series "Everything is a Remix." If it was a rip-off do we really have I Love Melvin to thank for the incredibly iconic Monroe scene? For every single parody and for Madonna's "Material Girl" video and for that scene in Hey Arnold! when Miriam stars in a beeper commercial?

By the way, no matter how you feel about Madonna, you must admit, they recreated that scene pretty well:


I find it intriguing that two movies released so close together could have a scene so similar. Had Melvin come first, it would make sense that the comedy was mocking another successful scene, but seeing as that's not the case, I find it perplexing. If you know anything about these two scenes, please drop me a line.

2 comments:

  1. I saw I love Melvin. Few weeks ago and I hit the internet to search answers and found your blog! The minute I saw the scene I thought hey, did they just copy this movie and how come no ones ever brought it up?

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    1. I wish youtube didn't keep taking the reference videos down! I think I Love Melvin is one of the most underrated classic musicals. Another idea I've had since as to the similarities was that maybe someone got fired from MGM after working on this number and sold it to 20th Century as an original idea they'd had. I wish I knew.

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