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July 15, 2021

Jane Russell Sketching a Portrait of Marilyn Monroe on the Set of ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953)

On the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Marilyn Monroe sat and posed while co-star Jane Russell drawing a portrait of her. When told she was not the star of the film, Marilyn was quoted as saying: “Well, whatever I am, I AM the blonde.”

This was Jane Russell’s only film with Marilyn Monroe. They got along well. According to Russell’s 1985 autobiography, she called Monroe “Blondl” and was often the only person on the set who could coax Monroe out of her trailer to begin the day’s filming.

In her very last interview (10 years after making Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), Monroe recalled the lack of respect studio execs had for her, but made a point of mentioning co-star, Jane Russell: “I remember when I got the part in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Jane Russell, she was the brunette in it and I was the blonde. She got $200,000 for it, and I got my $500 a week, but that to me was, you know, considerable. She, by the way, was quite wonderful to me.”

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell spent much of this film walking, singing, and dancing in absolute unison. For this film Gwen Verdon coached they in both their dance and walk – Monroe with less sex, Russell with more.

During a story conference for this film with Darryl F. Zanuck, director Howard Hawks suggested to Zanuck that the studio change Marilyn Monroe’s look and screen persona a bit, so that Marilyn would be more of an actress and less of a blonde bombshell type. The results in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes made Marilyn a massively huge film star in the 1950s and early 1960s.


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