Sunday, June 28, 2015

indelible moment: "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"

Howard Hawks' "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953) is a musical comedy with the accent on comedy, thanks largely to the skills of Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn and the child actor George "Foghorn" Winslow.

Cast as a millionaire named Henry Spofford III who's much younger than Monroe's golddigging Lorelei Lee had expected, the seven-year-old, preternaturally deep-voiced Winslow effectively steals the two shipboard scenes he shares with Monroe.  The second scene is a comic encounter with Monroe hilariously stuck in a porthole and in desperate need of help.

Their banter:

Henry: "Hello."
Lorelei: "Oh, Mr Spofford. Would you please give me a hand? I'm sort of stuck!"
Henry: "Are you a burglar?"
Lorelei: "Heaven's no! The steward locked me in. I was waiting for a friend."
Henry: "Why didn't you ring for him?"
Lorelei: "I didn't think of it. Isn't that silly?"
Henry: "If you were a burglar, and I helped you escape..."
Lorelei: "Please help me before somebody comes along."
Henry: "I'm thinking. All right. I'll help you. I'll help you for two reasons."
Lorelei: "Never mind the reasons. Just help me."
Henry: "The first reason is I'm too young to be sent to jail. The second reason is you got a lot of animal magnetism."

Winslow died two weeks ago - on June 13 - at age 69.  According to the obit by William Grimes in  The New York Times, Winslow was discovered by Cary Grant who had him cast in his first film, Norman Taurog's "Room for One More" (1952).

This unusual, memorable little boy worked in film for only six years, until 1958, and made a scant 10 features. He claimed that never enjoyed acting.

But audiences certainly enjoyed Foghorn.


Ireni said...

loved him in "Room for One More." What a wonderful kid actor.

Sheila said...

He had a brief but lasting career. Always memorable.

Marvin said...

Thanks! for the update on George "Foghorn" Winslow. I wondered what happened to him. Do you know his other films, other than ROOM FOR ONE MORE? Marvin

joe baltake said...

Marvin! Here’s a link with all his films. -J

Kiki said...

I love when you do this kind of "tribute." I don't remember the scene as I haven't seen Gentleman Prefer Blondes" since I was a little girl and altho it comes on TV, I never bother to tune in since I didn't like most musicals of that era. (oh, dare I say it, I never cared for Singing in the Rain!).

Sharon said...

As one of your fans commented, I also love your postings on the passings of famous or somewhat obscure movie makers. I remember George Winslow and was sorry to l earn he passed away, not so very old. His distinctive voice, droll features and adult expressions added to the hilarity he brought to the scenes he had with Marilyn Monroe. He really did look preternaturally mature and wise. TCM replayed "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" recently and I watched it again 2 days ago. I adore this movie because of the musical numbers and sparkling wit of its dialogue. It is one of Marilyn's best showcases to play a very smart "dumb" blonde. My favorite of the musical numbers is one not as often mentioned as the Big Iconic Numbers in this film, today often used to exemplify movies of the era. It is the bluesy duo of Jane and Marilyn in "When Love Goes Wrong." ah... bliss. Everything that makes musical comedies great.

Good music, singing, and choreography are outstanding, yet what makes stand-out movies "stand out" is ideal casting. Eve ry actor is just right for the part they portrayed in this film. An example is the actress (can't recall her name) who plays Piggy's beleagured wife. She had a steady career playing ladies of a certain age and class and her performance in GPB was terrific. And I must admit to recording and watching any movie, even if it has a questionable synopsis, if Charles Coburn is in the cast. My! What a reliable talent that man was! Wonderful Actor. Wonderful in every role.

Well, I could go on, but you get my point: another stand-out is George Winslow, the adorable little boy who didn't like making movies, who was a delightful highlight and indelible memory in this still entertaining movie.

joe baltake said...

The actress who plays Lady Beekman, the wife of Sir Piggy was Norma Varden, a great character actress. My favorite Varden bit is her role in Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train,” in a party scene during which Robert Walker asks her how she’d kill her husband. She plays along with him until he has his hands around her neck to demonstrate the best way to carry out a murder – strangulation. Her ideas about how she’d murder her husband are hilarious.

Sharon said...

Joe, Thanks for telling me Norma Varden's name. I have not seen "Strangers on a Train" in several years and have only the vaguest memory of the scene you mentioned.

Was she also in an early scene in "Casablanca?" Perhaps that was another actress.

joe baltake said...

Yes, that's Varden as the wife of the British get whose pocket is picked.

Sharon said...

Thanks! Love your site.