After curvaceous showgirls Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) finish their nightclub act, blonde gold digger Lorelei receives an engagement ring from her beau, wealthy Gus Esmond, Jr. (Tommy Noonan), much to the amusement of cynical, brunette Dorothy. Gus's father (Taylor Holmes), who is opposed to the marriage, has prevented Gus from marrying Lorelei in the past, and he again intervenes. Gus had planned to marry Lorelei in Paris, and so sends her and Dorothy ahead on the ocean liner Isle de Paris, cautioning Lorelei to avoid any scandal.

As the buxom beauties board the ship, the American men's Olympic team comments that neither would drown if the ship sank. As Dorothy flirts with them, Lorelei searches the passenger list for suitable men to escort Dorothy. Unknown to the women, Gus's father has hired handsome private detective Ernie Malone (Elliott Reid) to spy on Lorelei. Malone develops a crush on Dorothy, and is one of several men who bribe the headwaiter for a seat at Lorelei and Dorothy's dining room table.

That afternoon, after Malone engineers a meeting with Dorothy to question her about Lorelei, Lorelei is introduced to Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman (Charles Coburn), who owns a diamond mine in South Africa. Lorelei is dazzled when Piggy's wife, Lady Beekman (Norma Varden), shows off her tiara, for she loves to find new places to wear diamonds.

That night, the companion that Lorelei chooses for Dorothy, Henry Spofford III (George Winslow), turns out to be a six-year-old boy. After dinner, Malone tells Lorelei that he "clips coupons," and, mistakenly believing that he is well off, Lorelei endorses his romance with Dorothy.

As the days pass, Dorothy falls for Malone, although she reprimands him for criticizing Lorelei's passion for riches. One afternoon, Dorothy sees Malone taking pictures through the porthole of her and Lorelei's cabin and, after rushing inside, discovers that Lorelei was pretending to be a goat while Piggy, pretending to be a python, was demonstrating how pythons encircle their prey. Deducing that Malone is a detective, Dorothy schemes to retrieve his film. While Dorothy occupies Malone in the bar, Lorelei searches his cabin but cannot find the film. Forced to escape through the porthole, Lorelei gets stuck, but young Spofford helps her to wiggle out of her predicament.

With the aid of some strong drinks and knockout drops, Dorothy and Lorelei then succeed in getting Malone's clothes and the film. After developing the pictures, Lorelei shows them to Piggy, who is so grateful for her "honesty" that she convinces him to give her Lady Beekman's tiara. After they leave the cabin, Malone is retrieving the tape recorder he had planted when Dorothy catches him. Malone assures Dorothy that his feelings for her are real, but she refuses to forgive him.

Upon their arrival in Paris, Dorothy and Lorelei go on a buying spree and, when they try to check into their hotel, they discover that Gus, who has received Malone's damning report, has cancelled their reservations and letter of credit. Left on their own, the women obtain jobs at a local nightclub; and soon after, Gus visits in an attempt to reconcile with Lorelei. Although Lorelei loves Gus, she brushes him off, and outrages him with her tuneful declaration that "diamonds are a girl's best friend." After Lorelei's number, police arrive to retrieve Lady Beekman's tiara, but the jewelry has been stolen from the women's dressing room. Dorothy, wearing a blonde wig, then impersonates Lorelei in court while her friend tries to wheedle the price of a tiara out of Gus. Meanwhile, Malone, who has come to Paris to meet Esmond, Sr., deduces that Piggy has stolen the tiara and successfully retrieves it.

Back at the nightclub, Lorelei convinces Esmond, Sr. that a man being rich is like a woman being pretty, and he finally consents to her marriage to Gus. Dorothy and Malone, who have also resolved their romantic difficulties, join Gus and Lorelei for a double wedding ceremony, and Dorothy advises Lorelei, "Remember, honey, on your wedding day, it's alright to say yes."

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The story line first appeared in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady, a 1925 novel by Anita Loos. It was adapted for the stage in 1926, and then a 1928 silent movie which, as of now, is apparently lost. John C. WIlson directed the Broadway musical with Carol Channing as Lorelei Lee that served as the basis for this screen version.

Opening with a sassy musical number, this film goes into the credits with an atmosphere and approach that it pretty much keeps consistent throughout the whole film. The story is very much driven by the gold-digging female stereotypes of Lorelei and Dorothy and, although quite light, it does enough to keep things moving and interesting. It is greatly helped by the delivery, which is fun. The musical numbers (and indeed the whole film) are colorful and engaging thanks to great direction from Hawks. The script provides plenty of amusing material and although it does lack depth, it is generally very entertaining.
The score is bright, including the famous song Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, and all the musical numbers are cleverly staged and filmed. The overall look of the film is also eye popping: the ladies are dressed to perfection and the color cinematography is truly vibrant. The script is full of comfortable wit and Hawks keeps it moving at a nice clip. The cast includes such enjoyable performers as Charles Coburn, Tommy Noonan, Norma Varden, and George Winslow. But what really makes the film memorable are Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, who simply sparkle with star quality and play their roles with a twinkle-in-the-eye style.
Monroe and Russell have remarkable chemistry on screen, and although neither were really singers they each had enjoyable and very distinctive singing voices; their performances are so pleasantly amusing that you can't help but smile. Both had a way with comedy, with Monroe offering her quintessential 'not so dumb blonde' and Russell matching her all the way as the wise-to-you brunette determined to keep Monroe out of trouble. And so well do they work together it is hard to pick a favorite between the two. While Russell's down-to-earth, sharp wit has been noted by most critics, it is Monroe's turn as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee for which the film is often remembered.

Anita Loos wrote a sequel to her novel entitled But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, with further adventures of Lorelei and Dorothy. The 1955 film “Gentlemen Marry Brunettes” used only the book's name and starred Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain playing characters that were the daughters of Dorothy Shaw.

Call it fluff, but this film is thoroughly enjoyable for anyone still capable of a smile.