How to Marry a Millionaire
How to Marry a Millionaire.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJean Negulesco
Screenplay byNunnally Johnson
Based onThe Greeks Had a Word for It
by Zoe Akins
by Dale Eunson
Katherine Albert
Produced byNunnally Johnson
StarringMarilyn Monroe
Betty Grable
Lauren Bacall
William Powell
CinematographyJoseph MacDonald
Edited byLouis R. Loeffler
Music byCyril J. Mockridge (composer)
Alfred Newman (direction)
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 5, 1953 (1953-11-05) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.9 million[1]
Box office$8 million[2]

How to Marry a Millionaire is a 1953 American romantic comedy film directed by Jean Negulesco and written and produced by Nunnally Johnson. The screenplay was based on the plays The Greeks Had a Word for It (1930) by Zoe Akins and Loco (1946) by Dale Eunson and Katherine Albert.

The film stars Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall as three fashionable Manhattan models, along with William Powell, David Wayne, Rory Calhoun, and Cameron Mitchell as their wealthy marks. Although Grable received top billing in the screen credits, Monroe's name was listed first in all advertising, including the trailer.

Produced and distributed by 20th Century Fox, How to Marry a Millionaire was the studio's first film to be shot in the new CinemaScope wide-screen sound process, although it was the second CinemaScope film released by Fox after the biblical epic film The Robe (also 1953). How to Marry a Millionaire was also the first color and CinemaScope film ever to be shown on prime-time network television (though panned-and-scanned), when it was presented as the first film on NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies on September 23, 1961.[3]

The soundtrack to How to Marry a Millionaire was released on CD by Film Score Monthly on March 15, 2001.


Monroe as Pola, Grable as Loco, and Bacall as Schatze
Monroe as Pola, Grable as Loco, and Bacall as Schatze

Resourceful Schatze Page, spunky Loco Dempsey, and ditzy Pola Debevoise are money hungry gold diggers. The trio rent a luxurious Sutton Place penthouse in New York City from Freddie Denmark, who is avoiding the IRS by living in Europe. The women plan to use the apartment to attract rich men and marry them. And on the very day they move in, Loco carries in some groceries, assisted by Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell), who becomes very interested in Schatze. But she dismisses him, thinking he is poor. She repeatedly brushes him off while setting her sights on the charming, classy widower J.D. Hanley, whose worth is irreproachably large. All the while she is stalking the older J.D., Tom keeps after her. After every single one of their dates, she tells him she never wants to see him again as she refuses to marry another "gas pump jockey".

Pola is romanced by a phony tycoon, played by Alexander D'Arcy
Pola is romanced by a phony tycoon, played by Alexander D'Arcy

Meanwhile, Loco becomes acquainted with a grumpy businessman, Walter Brewster. He is married, but she agrees to go with him to his lodge in Maine, thinking she is going to a convention of the Elks Club. As soon as they arrive, Loco discovers her mistake and attempts to leave. However, she comes down with the measles and is quarantined. Upon recovering, she begins seeing a forest ranger, Eben Salem, and she is so impressed with "his" territory she presumes mistakenly that Salem is a wealthy landowner instead of a civil servant. So when she discovers the truth, she is disappointed but realizes that she loves him anyway and is willing to overlook his financial shortcomings.

William Powell as J.D. Hanley prepares to marry Schatze, with Loco and Pola as bridesmaids
William Powell as J.D. Hanley prepares to marry Schatze, with Loco and Pola as bridesmaids

The third member of the group, Pola, has myopia but hates to wear glasses in the presence of men; as she puts it, "Men aren't attentive to girls who wear glasses." She falls for a phony oil tycoon, J. Stewart Merrill, not knowing he is actually a crooked speculator. Luckily, when she takes a plane from LaGuardia Airport to meet him, she ends up on the wrong plane. A man sits next to her, also wearing glasses, who thinks she is "quite a strudel" and encourages her to put hers on. It turns out that he is the mysterious Freddie Denmark on his way to Kansas City to find the crooked accountant who got him into trouble with the IRS. He does not have much luck when he tracks the man down, but he and Pola fall in love and get married.

Loco and Pola are reunited with Schatze just before her wedding to J.D.. Schatze finds herself unable to go through with the wedding and confesses to J.D. that she is in love with Tom. He understands and agrees to call off the wedding. Tom is among the wedding attendees and the two reconcile and marry. Afterwards, the three happy couples end up at a greasy spoon, dining on hamburgers. Schatze jokingly asks Eben and Freddie about their financial prospects, which are slim. When she finally gets around to Tom, he casually admits a net worth of around $200 million, and lists an array of holdings, which none of the others appear to take seriously. He then calls for the check, pulls out an enormous wad of money, and pays with a $1,000 bill, telling the chef to keep the change. The three astonished women faint, and the men drink a toast to their unconscious wives.



Nunnally Johnson, who adapted the screenplay from two different plays, produced the picture.[4]

20th Century Fox started production on The Robe before it began How to Marry a Millionaire. Although the latter was completed first, the studio chose to present The Robe as its first CinemaScope picture in late September or early October 1953 because it saw The Robe as being more family-friendly and attracting a larger audience to introduce its widescreen process.[5]

The film's cinematography was by Joseph MacDonald. The costume design was by Travilla.[6]

Portrayal of New York

Between scenes, the cinematography has some iconic color views of mid-20th century New York City: Rockefeller Center, Central Park, the United Nations Building, and Brooklyn Bridge in the opening sequence following the credits. Other iconic views include the Empire State Building, the lights of Times Square at night and the George Washington Bridge.

A song extolling the virtues of New York follows the Gershwin-like music used for the title credits, after an elaborate 5 minute pre-credit sequence showcasing a 70-piece orchestra conducted by Alfred Newman before the curtain goes up.[7]


Main article: How to Marry a Millionaire (soundtrack)

The score for How To Marry a Millionaire was one of the first recorded for film in stereo and was composed and directed by Alfred Newman, with incidental music of Cyril Mockridge and orchestrated by Edward B. Powell.[8] The album was released on CD by Film Score Monthly on March 15, 2001,[9] as part of Film Score Monthly's series Golden Age Classics.

Release and box office

How to Marry a Millionaire premiered at the Fox Wilshire Theatre (now the Saban Theatre), in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 1953.[10] The film was a box office success for Fox, earning $8 million worldwide[2] and $7.5 million domestically, second highest for it that year to The Robe.[11] It was the fourth highest-grossing film of 1953, whereas Monroe's previous feature Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was seventh.

Award nominations

Award Category Subject Result
Academy Awards[12] Best Costume Design – Color Charles LeMaire and William Travilla Nominated
British Academy Film Awards[13] Best Film from any Source How to Marry a Millionaire Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards[14] Best Written American Comedy Nunnally Johnson Nominated

Television adaptation

In 1957, the film was adapted into a sitcom How to Marry a Millionaire. The series starred Barbara Eden (as Loco Jones), Merry Anders (Michelle "Mike" Page), Lori Nelson (Greta Lindquist) and as Nelson's later replacement, Lisa Gaye as Gwen Kirby. It aired in syndication for a total of two seasons.


In 2000, 20th Century Fox Television produced a made-for-TV remake called How to Marry a Billionaire: A Christmas Tale. It reversed the sex roles, and had three men looking to marry female millionaires. The film starred John Stamos, Joshua Malina and Shemar Moore.

In 2007, Nicole Kidman bought the rights to How to Marry a Millionaire under her production company Blossom Films, intending to produce and possibly star in a remake.[15]


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey (2002). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series. Vol. 20. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 248. ISBN 9780810842441. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Solomon, Aubrey (2002). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series. Vol. 20. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 89. ISBN 9780810842441. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  3. ^ Gomery, Douglas; Pafort-Overduin, Clara (2011). Movie History: A Survey: Second Edition (2 ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-136-83525-4.
  4. ^ "Facts about "How to Marry a Millionaire" : Classic Movie Hub (CMH)". Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  5. ^ Churchwell, Sarah (27 December 2005). The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe. Picador. p. 57. ISBN 0-312-42565-1.
  6. ^ "How to Marry a Millionaire (1953): Cast & Crew". TCM. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
  7. ^ Retrieved 18 January 2020. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ "How to Marry a Millionaire (1953): Track List". Film Score Monthly. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  9. ^ "How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)". Retrieved October 12, 2014.
  10. ^ Schwarz, Ted (2008). Marilyn Revealed: The Ambitious Life of an American Icon. Taylor Trade Publications. p. 390. ISBN 978-1-589-79342-2.
  11. ^ Lev, Peter (2006). Transforming the Screen, 1950-1959. University of California Press. p. 118. ISBN 0-520-24966-6.
  12. ^ "Oscars Ceremonies: The 26th Academy Awards - 1954: Winners & Nominees - Costume Design (Color)". Oscars. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  13. ^ "BAFTA Awards Search: 1955". Retrieved November 15, 2014.
  14. ^ "Writers Guild of America, USA: Awards for 1954". IMDb. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  15. ^ Siegel, Tatiana. The Hollywood Reporter 2007-04-27