If How to Marry a Millionaire didn’t premise itself on having Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall share the same plane of cinematic existence, the whole enterprise would seem even more dreary than it is. It’s an implausible high concept, to be sure: three feminine “types” rent out a New York loft to try to ensnare a rich husband. If you have any familiarity with Hollywood’s hypocrisy about moneyed escapism and true love, you know how it goes. As they are, the unfolding clichés seem too lowbrow even for Monroe’s breathy ditzy blonde, let alone the angular Bacall. The movie, only the second shot in CinemaScope, only seems remotely adept at the technology when it fits all three stars onscreen. Hence my favorite shot above, where each star is dressed and takes on a mode of repose that’s so different from the others, even as they’re all dreamily contemplating their potential future catches. The pleasure’s ours.
(P.S. As an example of how disastrous this movie is, take a look at the shot below. The bizarre composition places Bacall dead-center while another figure draws the eye to a cramped right. A shadow falls on that figure, even though we’re supposed to follow Bacall’s gaze toward it. The sharpest lines on the stone ledge behind Bacall seem to protrude out of her hair, and the ledge’s dimensionality only makes the painted New York backdrop look even faker by contrast. The only saving grace—as is the case for much of this movie—is Bacall, arms folded, throwing a judgmental glance with aplomb.)