How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)

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Released 24-Jul-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer-3
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (4:34)
Featurette-Movietone News: How To Marry A Millionaire In Cinemascope
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 91:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:41) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jean Negulesco
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Marilyn Monroe
Betty Grable
Lauren Bacall
William Powell
Case ?
RPI Box Music Alfred Newman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.55:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Croatian
Czech
Danish
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
French
German
Greek
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Italian
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Spanish
Swedish
Turkish
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Marilyn Monroe fans rejoice! Twentieth Century Fox have finally delved into their vaults and pulled out for release some dozen of the films of the biggest sex symbol Hollywood has ever seen. Whilst her life was something of a tragedy, there is no doubt that even today Marilyn Monroe remains in a class of her own. Perhaps the most instantly recognised actress of all time, there is little doubt that she was also the sexiest. For generations of men she has been the epitome of a sex symbol and these films will go some way to explaining to those that don't understand exactly what was so special about Marilyn Monroe. We have already seen her in Some Like It Hot, with the operative word being "hot", so in some ways it is thankful that one of the first batch of DVDs we have for review is How To Marry A Millionaire. Why? Well, pretty obvious really - Marilyn Monroe, World War Two pinup girl Betty Grable and thrown in for good measure Lauren Bacall. Has any film managed to gather together three such wonderful specimens of womanhood? Talk about hot!

    The title of the film pretty gives away the entire story here. Three part-time models, Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall), Pola Debevoise (Marilyn Monroe) and Loco Dempsey (Betty Grable), hire an up-market apartment in New York City as part of a plan to capture wealthy husbands. Loco is the first to pick up a guy when she visits a convenience store on the way over to the apartment, although Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell) is soon dismissed as a gas pump jockey by Schatze and is cast aside in the quest for millionaires. Cute he might be but money is everything according to Schatze. The plan of course does not go that well and money runs out very quickly, despite the disposal of assets that aren't really theirs to sell. When they almost reach the end, out of the blue is discovered J.D. Hanley (William Powell), who invites the girls to an evening with a bunch of oil barons and bankers. Thereupon things start to look up a little, but for various different reasons. Despite the fact that she is very happy with J.D., who happens to be quite wealthy, Schatze finds herself being the object of Tom's desire - a desire she continually knocks on the head. Never get involved with those gas pump jockeys. Still, the dreams of the girls don't quite get met. Oh sure, Loco heads off to a lodge in Maine with her "catch", only to fall into the arms of Eben (Rory Calhoun), whilst the blind-as-a-bat Pola meets up with the owner of the apartment they rent. Only Schatze seems to be able to hold on to the plan...

    Perhaps one of the reasons for How To Marry A Millionaire enduring as a film, other than its three female leads, is the fact that at heart this is a very simple story - with a rather obvious message. But let's face it - the film really goes where it goes because of the three ladies! 1953 was a big year for Marilyn Monroe. She had three films released - Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How To Marry A Millionaire - all of which were pretty big hits. By the time this one rolled into theatres, she was just about the brightest star on the planet and about to blast off in a very big way. However, she had yet to demonstrate much of a depth to her talent and really all she was expected to do was look sexy - which she would do very well indeed here. There are the inklings of a genuine actress here though, and from here on through to The Misfits of 1961, despite the increasing problems her life would bring to every set, she slowly showed that she could indeed act as well as be the ultimate sex symbol. By the time this film came out, Betty Grable had already been a pinup girl for ten years and to some extent this was the beginning of the end of her career. She only made five or six films after How To Marry A Millionaire, and it has to be said that whilst she had a great pair of legs and looked fantastic, she was not a great actress. Still, I doubt too many were really bothering about that when the film was released! Whilst having Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable as co-stars would have intimidated most actresses, Lauren Bacall was one of the few who could hold their own in such company. She did so with ease and then some. Not as overtly sensual as Monroe, nor as obvious a beauty as Grable, Bacall had a certain presence and style about her that today defines a different style of sensualness. The fact they they were three beautiful women, but for very different reasons, is another reason why the film succeeds so well.

    The film also scores in other ways. There has perhaps been no more pompous a start to a film as here. Being one of the very first CinemaScope films, Twentieth Century Fox went out of their way to use the format. Thus, the film opens with a five and a half minute orchestral piece that demonstrates how much different the CinemaScope and Stereophonic processes were to others. Completely out of character with the rest of the film, the opening nonetheless remains one of the high points of the show. The film was also dotted with interesting little throwaway lines that add enormously to the underlying comedy of the film. In the lodge, Betty Grable misidentifies a song on the radio as being from Harry James ("I know a Harry James song and that is a Harry James song") - she was of course married to Harry James for a number of years. Lauren Bacall has a throwaway line about the old bloke in The African Queen: the reference is of course to her husband Humphrey Bogart. It is little things like this that make the film such an enduring and endearing one.

    It is by no means the best film that Marilyn Monroe made, but it certainly is a thoroughly enjoyable one. It probably remains an underrated film in her filmography but is a film that I love to return to time and time again. With this wonderful DVD release, now we can all enjoy the film the way it is supposed to be.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film itself is rapidly approaching its fiftieth anniversary of release (a sobering thought for those who can actually remember the theatrical release of the film), so I guess the expectations going in are that some allowances have to be made for the transfer. Well, the restoration performed on the film, as briefly touched upon in the extras, ensures that what allowances you have to make are no more than you would for a ten year old film. Suffice it to say that Twentieth Century Fox have done the right thing by the film and the result is almost an eye-opener.

    Being one of the very first films to be released in CinemaScope, the theatrical aspect ratio was 2.55:1. The transfer we have here has a measured ratio of 2.52:1, which is pretty much on the money. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The general quality of the transfer can be gauged from the fact that my notes for the entire review session comprised of six items, of which one was related to the musical intro! Even making no allowances for the age of the source material, there is not much to raise an issue about at all. The restoration has done a great job of bringing the transfer back to its original glory. The definition is generally superb throughout, with the opening musical sequence in particular being almost jaw-dropping in quality. In fact, there is no point during the film where you could really raise even an eyebrow regarding the quality of the definition - a very far cry from the Very Hazy System tape that I have lived with for years. Shadow detail is again superb, although there really is not much in the film where it would really come into play. Whilst the grain that was present in the Very Hazy System tape is very much a thing of the past, there are still some places where a residual problem is evident - 13:19 and 38:54 are examples. As a result, clarity throughout the film is excellent. Low level noise is a non-issue here.

    Perhaps the one area where the age of the transfer is evidenced is in the colours. Nothing major I hasten to add but just that fluctuation of colour that we tend to find in earlier colour films. Otherwise this is an excellent effort: the colours are very nicely rendered, have come up gorgeously well in the restoration and have a very nice tone to them. I would not call them the most vibrant I have ever seen but the tones are bright and pretty consistent. The blacks in the opening sequence are very well done in particular. There is no indication of oversaturation at all, although being finicky I could say that on occasions the colours are a little undersaturated. Colour bleed is not an issue at all.

    There is nothing much in the way of MPEG artefacts in the transfer, other than a little loss of resolution in the grainy pan shot at 13:19. Whilst there was nothing significant in the way of film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, if you look really hard you might find some very minor aliasing here and there. The big plus for the transfer, though, is the relative lack of film artefacts. The amount of clean up that has gone into the restoration is excellent and the result is some very minor dirt and scratch marks here and there that you would really have no issue with.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 66:41. It is very well hidden in a black scene change and is virtually unnoticeable and completely non-disruptive to the flow of the film.

    There are twenty two subtitle options on the DVD, of which three relate to titling of the extras. I confined myself to the English for the Hearing Impaired efforts, which I have to say are a little disappointing. They seemed to miss a fair bit of the dialogue at times, which might impact a bit upon the nuances of the film for those with hearing impairments.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I stuck with the English soundtrack, which sounds as if it has a configuration of L-C-R-S.

    The audio transfer is not quite in the league of the video transfer, but is nonetheless very good. Obviously this is a very dialogue-based film and it is therefore important that the dialogue comes up well and is easy to understand. It is. There does not appear to be any problem with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music comes from Alfred Newman, with the showcase being the opening musical number. This sweeping opening is somewhat out of character with the film but there is no denying it is a great showcase for the man. I cannot honestly say that the rest of the score does a fat lot for me, but I suppose that in the overall scheme of things it is a decent enough effort that supports the film pretty well.

    The general soundtrack is completely adequate without being especially memorable. Obviously lacking any LFE channel activity, the obvious thing here is the fact that there is little if anything in the way of distortion or hiss. Not a bad effort for a fifty year old soundtrack! Despite the configuration of the sound, much of the activity is actually quite frontal with little surround action. This is no bad thing considering that the film very much relies upon dialogue rather than action, and the overall effect is quite natural sounding.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Considering the age of the film, a not bad little extras package has been assembled for the DVD.

Menu

    Fairly basic efforts, although looking pretty classy and they are 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (2:22)

    This is the US trailer and you might just get the idea the film was shot in CinemaScope from it! You have Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall in a film and you promote it on the basis of CinemaScope? Only a marketing type could think of that! Yes, I know it was an early CinemaScope film but please - Monroe, Grable and Bacall! Interestingly the trailer is black and white and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound that is decidedly strident sounding, suggesting it is mono. Technically speaking it is very ropey - plenty of film artefacts and a hissy, crackly sound.

Theatrical Trailer (2:29)

    This is the Italian trailer and boy is it wildly different to the US effort! For starters, it is in a widescreen format that looks like 2.35:1 and it is in glorious colour. It is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound that sounds decidedly less strident. It is a bit grainy at times, has some oversaturated colours but is otherwise of very good quality technically.

Theatrical Trailer (2:29)

    This is the German trailer and is pretty much the same as the Italian effort barring the language. It is noticeably more blighted with film artefacts but is otherwise of similar technical quality to the Italian effort. It is in an aspect ratio that looks like 2.35:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Restoration Comparison (4:34)

    This is a moderately interesting look at the restoration of the film. After some self running notes about the extent of the restoration required, the featurette ends with a split screen comparison. This compares firstly the original film restoration and video restoration with the original film restoration alone and then the previous video master (demonstrating huge chunks of grain!). The whole is presented in a full frame format, with no sound accompaniment other than the film dialogue. Interesting if not exactly lengthy.

Featurette - Movietone News: How To Marry A Millionaire In CinemaScope (1:18)

    A fairly typical effort for Movietone News footage, meaning not exactly lacking in film artefacts and fairly strident, mono sound. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and the sound is Dolby Digital 2.0.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as we can ascertain the Region 4 release misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    In broad terms there is nothing significantly different between the two releases, so call this one even.

Summary

    Whilst some don't rate How To Marry A Millionaire highly, I have always felt this to be one of the stronger Marilyn Monroe films. Not in the same league as say Some Like It Hot, but certainly well worth investigating, The restoration afforded the film has resulted in a generally excellent DVD that few would find any significant complaint with. If this is the quality we will be getting throughout the collection, then I for one am going to be very happy indeed.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Wednesday, July 10, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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