[Editor’s Note: This review is excerpted from Judge Barrie Maxwell’s Precedents column, Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection.]
How to Marry a Millionaire was only the second film to be released in Cinemascope. As a film, it is the weakest in the Diamond Collection and seems little more than an excuse for Fox to show off its new Cinemascope process. The story involves the efforts of three women to find and marry a millionaire. They rent a ritzy New York apartment and gradually sell off the furniture to finance their hunt. Actually, only one of them seems to be really dedicated to hooking a millionaire; the others seem to be content to find any husband, rich or not. The three women are played by Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe.
The Cinemascope process is on display by virtue of an opening musical number by the one-hundred-member 20th Century Fox Symphony orchestra conducted by Alfred Newman. Splendid vistas of snow-covered countrysides and an interesting shot of a plane landing from the viewpoint of a camera under it also seem planned more to remind us of the widescreen that to advance the story. In addition, there are some nice photographic compositions involving all three of the principal actresses together that take advantage of the widescreen process.
The focus is certainly on Bacall, Grable and Marilyn, however, although the latter two are somewhat secondary to Bacall in this film. None of the supporting players are particularly memorable, probably on purpose so as not to provide photographic competition for the three principals. Thus we get such worthies as Rory Calhoun, Cameron Mitchell and David Wayne. Veteran William Powell is wasted as a wealthy oil man. Marilyn has some amusing moments arising from her character’s aversion to wearing glasses without which she’s otherwise virtually blind.
The transfer on display (2.55:1 anamorphic) is certainly another fine effort from Fox. It’s perhaps just marginally below those of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Bus Stop in overall quality. Colours are certainly beautifully rendered, but there is the occasional hint of edge enhancement and one or two instances of softness in the image. Still, for a film almost 50 years old, it looks pretty fine and provides a good example of the potent combination of Cinemascope and Technicolor. Both a Dolby Digital 4.0 surround mix and the original stereo sound are provided. The former does convey a little more expansive character to the proceedings, but the original stereo was nothing to sneeze at. It has some great directional effects.
The disc’s supplements include a pile of trailers including the original theatrical one, German and Italian ones, and those for the other films in the Diamond Collection. There’s also a Movietone newsreel highlighting the film and a restoration comparison.