Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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How to Get Horizontal

TRIGGER WARNING: The following post may cause mild to severe psychological trauma to those who have been carefully maintaining an incomprehension of widescreen.

I wonder if Cinemascope was ever in danger of being called Gamovision. 1953's How to Marry a Millionaire was the first film ever shot in Cinemascope, anamorphic lenses used to produce extremely widescreen footage. You can certainly tell it was new, too, from shots like these;

Actors frequently are shown distorted at the edge of the frame in dialogue sequences. Because of this, it seemed much of the film was composed with the action in the centre, which may have led some to wonder just what the point of the whole thing was. Proponents of Cinemascope were certainly making the argument, though, with shots like a long one of an airplane taxiing up to the screen. Which seemed a little odd for what is otherwise essentially a drawing room comedy.

As a studio film with a relatively undistinguished director trying a new technique designed to bring audiences to theatres, I kind of expected the movie to be dull and safe. It's certainly the latter, but I was surprised to find that it was enjoyable. The plot involves three women who've moved temporarily into a ritzy apartment as part of an attempt to capture a millionaire husband. The actresses, costumes, and generally unobtrusive direction are in a nutshell what make this movie work.

Even so, the three leads, Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall, are thwarted somewhat by an hour and a half running time that fails to accommodate them all. Grable gives the least interesting performance and for some reason shows the least amount of leg, despite probably having the most famous pair of the bunch.

Monroe has woefully little screen time but has a funny running gag about how she insists on pretending she doesn't need glasses whenever guys are around, leading to her frequently bumping into walls and people. Bacall has the largest role, which would have been great if she wasn't playing kind of an airhead who consistently rebuffs the millionaire interested in her after an increasingly improbable misperception on her part of him as a garage worker. Bacall simply can't play dumb, she just has such a natural aura of wit around her it feels phoney when she tries. William Powell has a small role which makes one imagine the possibilities of Bacall as Nora in a 1950s Thin Man film.

But this movie is a decent enough thing to have lighting your screen for a little while.

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