Marilyn Monroe: Lorelei Lee vs. Sugar Kane

Marilyn Monroe

One actor. Two film roles. You tell us which portrayal was the best. The most memorable. Or iconic. Or simply your favorite.
But before you pass judgment, a few words defending the “character” of each…

The case for Lorelei Lee

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a real turning point for Marilyn Monroe. Previously she was cast in supporting sexpot roles and was not particularly adept in her acting skills. In Gentlemen she would be required to sing, dance and act. Co-star Jane Russell noted her dedication in staying long hours to perfect her scenes. It paid off. Gentlemen garnered rave reviews, box office pay dirt (sixth highest grossing film of the year), and Monroe’s acting was impressive. Most of all, though, the film was the making of a sex symbol. Sure, Marilyn Monroe was quite the bombshell before, but the musical number “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” sent her into the stratosphere. A star is born:

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The case for Sugar Kane Kowalczyk

Tales of Marilyn Monroe’s appalling behavior on the set of Some Like it Hot are legendary. Doesn’t matter. The movie is pure magic (#1 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs list) and Marilyn never looked or performed better (she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress). Does her quick wit come by chance? Are her expressions and gestures happy accidents, each and every one? Is her impeccable comic timing happenstance? Her snappy dialogue a fluke? I think not—it’s called acting. Combine all that with her innate sexually charged persona and you have a finely tuned performance that is truly mesmerizing. Watch her sing “I Want to be Loved by You” and prepare to be seduced:

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Now that you’ve heard the arguments for both it’s time to render your verdict!

  • Mike in Oz (down under)

    Both are great movies and Marilyn is wonderful in each one, but I’d have to side with SOME LIKE IT HOT. The Billy Wilder screenplay is wittier than that of BLONDES (which is also very good) and Marilyn’s talent had matured in the 6 year period which took place between them. Although she was much more difficult to work with and get a performance out of by then, the patience and skill of Wilder (and that of her co-stars) brought out pure thespian gold and Marilyn’s only Golden Globe award-winning performance. The Academy compounded their crime of ignoring Monroe’s performance in BUS STOP by failing to nominate her for her work as Sugar. Simone Signoret was a superb actress, but it doesn’t take a historian to determine which 1959 performance has lasted the longest in the public’s affection and memory. (A clue, it is not Simone’s in ROOM AT THE TOP!)

  • Cara

    Some Like it Hot. Marilyn might have been as fragile as glass by the time SLIH was filmed, but the role allowed that. Wilder got great performances from all the actors, and the movie is one of Wilder’s greatest.

  • Dana Thompson

    I must say, Loralei Lee, was never that crazy about Sugar Cane, but I am a woman, soooo, but one of my real favorites of Marilyns is “The Girl” in Seven Year Itch and of course her role in How to Marry a Millionaire, loved that part