The Honey Trap is a Money Trap
They often say when it comes to love that Mr. Right is right under your nose, you just don't realise it which is really the basis of "How to Marry a Millionaire" a tale of 3 models who aim to hook themselves millionaires whether they love them or not only to find out that money isn't the be all and end all. The trouble with "How to Marry a Millionaire" is not so much the story or the acting as Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall make for a delightful trio especially in their varied characters but it suffers because this was Twentieth Century-Fox's first CinemaScope feature and as such it seems more interested in exploring the capabilities of CinemaScope than delivering a memorable movie. There are beautiful scenic shots and a rather strange opening orchestra scene which has no relevance to the story at all but it all ends up distracting from the romantic comedy which at times limps along not really going anywhere other than to some location so that CinemaScope could be used to its full effect.
Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall - Young Man with a Horn) has a plan, she is going to marry herself a millionaire and she enlists the help of her fellow models Pola (Marilyn Monroe - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and Loco (Betty Grable) in achieving this. But whilst she may have managed to rent a swanky apartment getting a millionaire ends up not being as easy and the only person who seems interested in her is Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell - Hombre) who Schatze thinks works at a gas station. But when all 3 of them finally do find themselves three rich gentlemen friends they begin to wonder whether money is everything.
"How to Marry a Millionaire" actually starts quite well, once you get past the irrelevant orchestral scene, as we meet are trio of attractive models and you can't but help laugh as we learn that they are renting a swanky apartment in order to trap themselves some millionaires. You also have to laugh that to fund this plan they are selling the furniture from the apartment especially when it ends up pretty empty after just three months.
But after this wonderful start which sees them meet the wealthy and older J.D. Hanley and then introduced to other wealthy men it seems to settle down to become rather ordinary as it splits into 3 separate stories. You have Loco heading off to a mountain cabin with the wealthy and married Waldo Brewster only to end up not only disappointed with her choice but falling for mountain ranger Eben who she thinks owns land in the mountains. Then there is Pola who thanks to her embarrassment of wearing glasses ends up falling for one man but then through a series of mishaps ends up falling for Freddie Denmark whose apartment it is they are renting. And then there is Schatze, the leader of this trio who does her best to ensnare Mr. Hanley whilst fending off the advances of Tom Brookman who she thinks is a garage attendant not realising he is seriously wealthy. And all of this basically means is that in an attempting to snare themselves millionaires they may not notice that Mr. Right is under their noses.
The thing about all of this is that it is all very obvious as jokes are repeated and romance is less than subtle. It maybe amusing the first time that Pola walks into a door because she is embarrassed about wearing glasses but by the second and third let alone the seventh or eighth it becomes repetitive. The same can be said of Schatze trying to fend off the advances of Mr. Brookman especially as you can guess the outcome of all of this. Although there is something surprisingly tender in the way that Schatze tries to charm J.D. Handley into marrying her.
All of this means that whilst "How to Marry a Millionaire" is certainly fun it is also rather forgettable despite the trio of Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe working well together. Although it has to be said that they have their best scenes when they are one on one with a man especially Lauren Bacall who as Schatze appears to be the driving force of the movie. Maybe if the various men in the movie had been stronger characters it would have worked better but whilst William Powell, Rory Calhoun, Cameron Mitchell and David Wayne work well with their female counterparts they are all rather dull.
Part of the trouble appears to be that "How to Marry a Millionaire" was Twentieth Century-Fox's first CinemaScope feature and as such there are elements which get thrown in so that the technology can be explored and experimented with. It means that whilst the opening orchestra scene is impressive it has nothing to do with the actual story and whilst the snowy mountain views are stunning as Loco and Eben ski across the slopes they go on much longer than is needed. You get a feeling that if "How to Marry a Millionaire" hadn't been Twentieth Century-Fox's first CinemaScope feature maybe it would have been more memorable as it wouldn't have had that feeling of being experimental.
What this all boils down to is that "How to Marry a Millionaire" is fun and the trio of Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe light up the screen but it is also not that memorable. It has all the elements to be a good romantic comedy but it just feels like director Jean Negulesco was too busy exploring the capabilities of CinemaScope and failing to focus on making the romance and the comedy work as well as it should have.