Day 22: Lorelei and Dorothy

Lorelei and Dorothy, as any Marilyn Monroe or Jane Russell fan will know, were the two lead characters in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (as well as the 1949 stage musical it was based on). This Swimmer One song imagines them negotiating their way through a world destroyed by climate change, with a few jokey references to the film’s three most famous songs along the way – ‘Anyone here for love?’ ‘Dry land is a girl’s best friend’, ‘It’s too late for us to go back to Little Rock now’ etc). We possibly breached several copyright laws here; thankfully we never received any legal letters.

The starting point for this idea was the line from the chorus, ‘We are here to watch a cabaret show, not to dispense justice’. In the film, when Dorothy is singing Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend in a Paris court room (while pretending to be Lorelei), the judge scoldingly tells her that ‘we’re here to dispense justice, not to watch a cabaret show’. I loved that, and thought it would be a fun idea to turn the line around. I think I’d been reading a lot of very dispiriting media coverage about global warming, war, and the state of the world in general, and at that moment Jane Russell causing havoc in a room full of  pompous, entitled old men was exactly what I needed to see.

There’s been much interesting discussion about whether or not Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a feminist film. It’s obviously an iconic one – the first Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend sequence has since been referenced in Madonna’s Material Girl video and the films Moulin Rouge and Burlesque, among many other places. I’m not going to get too deeply into that question here – other people have done that very well already – but I do remember thinking the film was quite subversive when I first saw it. Despite its title, the male characters aren’t that important really – it’s all about the friendship between Lorelei and Dorothy. I mention this because it’s reflected in the song, even though it’s a male voice singing it. At the end it becomes apparent that the male narrator is someone who has been tagging along with Lorelei and Dorothy, someone who they might well ditch any minute, hence the pleading, slightly pathetic line at the end (‘We could make the perfect team, girls, please take me with you, won’t you?’). I quite like the idea of Lorelei and Dorothy leaving this sad sack on an island somewhere while they sail off together into the sunset.

Musically, the song went through a few different incarnations. It began as a very electro, Euro house type affair (while discussing set lists for live shows it was often referred to as ‘the gay disco song’). It then went in a more Roxy Music sort of direction – the insistent piano that runs throughout the song was a very deliberate Roxy homage.

It could have been a hit, I reckon, particularly if we’d had the gumption / budget to make a video that homaged that court room scene in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Maybe I should have put on feathers and a wig (which I did sometimes do at parties) – a man dressed up as Jane Russell dressed up as Marilyn Monroe. That could have been a great video, actually. Oh well.

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