Friday, September 4, 2015

Inspiration: How to Marry a Millionaire

How to Marry a Millionaire is a classic that rests firmly in my "top 10 movies of all time" list. Some of the humor is, of course, a bit sexist and dated, but it still makes me laugh and never ceases to dazzle me. The plot is simple: three models scheme to catch a millionaire for a husband and live the rest of their lives on easy street. But of course, "catch a millionaire" isn't as simple as it sounds.

The film was released in 1953 and is set in 1950s New York. Hence, there's a whole lot of style going on, even as the ladies sell off their leased furniture to support themselves. If you think 50s beauty and fashion were homogeneous, How to Marry a Millionaire will show you otherwise.

Marilyn Monroe is the best known star in the film's roster, at least today; she plays Pola. Like many of Marilyn's characters in her early films, Pola is ditzy, but well-meaning. Much of the film's humor is derived from Pola's reluctance to wear her glasses in public, which results in her banging in to walls and following the wrong man to the dinner table. Her silver-accented cat eye glasses are beautiful, and I hope I can one day afford extra pairs of specs so I can get a similar pair.

Pola's clothes are generally form fitting, as were most of Monroe's outfits throughout her career. Her outfits tend to feature small amounts of glitz or trim, usually focused on her waist to accentuate Monroe's hourglass figure--even her bathrobe has a visible girdle. For the most part, her character wears rich burgundies, reds, and pinks or bright whites, drawing attention to her platinum hair.

Lauren Bacall plays Schatze, the mastermind of the "catch a millionaire" plan. Even by 50s standards, Bacall's outfits are modest: she's always covered down to the knee, and her plunging necklines are never revealing and are often accompanied by a stole or a cape.  Most of her clothing is in dark jewel tones: navy, forest green, and black abound. Of course, there are some notable exceptions, like the yellow sweater seen above, paired with different shades of tan and brown.

Some people think Bacall looks frumpy in this film compared to her co-stars, but I couldn't disagree more. She's still a model, but she's a bit more mature than the other ladies, attractive in a very different way. And the clothes suit her well.

Betty Grable is not often spoken of today, and it's a shame. To be fair, her character in this film--Loco--doesn't come off as being quite as funny as Pola or as sly as Schatze. But doesn't her smile just brighten up a room? And I've always loved Grable's signature hair style!

Like Monroe, Grable was also a platinum blonde and a sex symbol. But her character is styled differently. Out of all of the women, Loco wears the most frills and flash; it's as if the costume designers wanted to draw attention to her youthful, spritely energy. She wears a lot of pink and pale yellow. Also, Grable was famous for her legs, so several of her outfits draw attention to them; even her dresses tend to be cut a smidge higher to show off her calves.

Obligatory "gussying up" shot!

Ah, the days when showing women sleeping in their makeup was still acceptable! ...except we still do that. End rant.

How to Marry a Millionaire showcases several very-different looking women with makeup that's "of the era," but still tailored to each woman's features. Bacall had a famously "severe" face, and rather than hide it, makeup artists highlighted the angles of her face to add to her mysterious and brooding expression. Notice how sharp and squared her brows look, for instance.

Monroe's makeup is famous, of course, and there are tons of tutorials on YouTube, so I won't go too much in to it. But I love that you can see some color on her eyes here. Believe it or not, she did wear colored eyeshadow!

Grable had a round face that could sometimes make her look a bit plump, so her makeup was often applied to give her a bit more "shape." Notice, for example, how strong her blush is, and how it's placed a bit further back on her cheeks; this makes her face look a tad wider across the center. She's also wearing some great silver nail polish in this scene!

Speaking of makeup: I recently read a thread outlining peoples' least favorite makeup look, and a lot of people chose "red lipstick with pink blush." Sigh! I love this look! You see red lipstick with soft pink or coral blush quite a bit in 1950s films, including HtMaM. And yeah, maybe it's a bit dated...but I will always love it.

As mentioned, this movie is loaded to the brim with great fashion! There's even a little fashion show that takes place in the middle of the movie. If you love vintage clothing, HtMaM will be a feast for your eyes.

But you know what dates this movie even more than the pink-blush-red-lipstick combo? The way everybody smokes all day, every day, even when they're in their wedding gown. Ah, the simpler days!


  1. LOL! at the smoking :)

    Is red lipstick and pink blush dated??? I feel so dated.... D:

    1. Other people call it "dated." I think it's old-fashioned, but that's not a bad thing for me.