Iconic Blonde Film Festival screens three Hollywood classics

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will present three classic Hollywood films as part of its Iconic Blonde Film Festival Dec. 4-6.

Held in conjunction with the exhibition “Beauty and the Blonde: An Exploration of American Art and Popular Culture,” the festival will feature screenings of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” Tuesday, Dec. 4, “Vertigo” Wednesday, Dec. 5, and “Bonnie and Clyde” Dec. 6.

Marilyn Monroe was an icon when Andy Warhol began making screens of her image in 1962 after her death, but she was relatively unknown until 1953, the year of “Gentleman Prefer Blondes.” The film is showing next week at the Tivoli Theatre as part of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum’s Iconic Blonde Film Festival.

All screenings are free and open to the public and begin at 7 p.m. at the Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd.

“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953) is directed by Howard Hawks. Based on the 1925 novel by Anita Loos, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” stars Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell as Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw, a pair of showgirls and best friends who set sail for Paris. Lorelei intends to marry Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan), an eligible millionaire, but soon finds herself tracked by the private detective Malone (Elliot Reid), who was hired by Gus’ father (Taylor Holmes) to ascertain whether Lorelei is simply a gold-digger.

The film includes Monroe’s signature song, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

“Vertigo” (1958) is directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Kim Novak and James Stewart star in this psychological thriller about love, obsession and illusion. Stewart plays John “Scottie” Ferguson, a San Francisco police detective who retires after a traumatic experience leaves him with a fear of heights.

Ferguson is soon hired by an old acquaintance to follow his suicidal wife, Madeline (played by Novak), but is unable to save her from falling to her death. Yet in the aftermath, Ferguson becomes fixated on another woman, Judy, who bears an eerie resemblance to Madeline.

“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) is directed by Arthur Penn. A landmark of postwar American cinema, “Bonnie and Clyde” stars Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as the infamous outlaw couple whose exploits in the Depression-era southwest achieved mythic status.

The film was both celebrated and criticized for its quick shifts in mood and tone, moving abruptly from graphic violence to screwball comedy, yet its romantic, rebellious anti-heroes became icons of 1960s counterculture and helped set the stage for Hollywood’s resurgence in the following decade.

“Beauty and the Blonde,” the first museum show to investigate the strategic use of the blonde in contemporary art, remains on view at the Kemper Art Museum through Jan. 28. Regular hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays; and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is closed Tuesdays.

For more information about the film festival or the exhibition, call 935-4523 or visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu.