Published on July 2, 2016
“Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” is a song introduced by Carol Channing in the original Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), which was written by Jule Styne and Leo Robin. It was based on a novel by Anita Loos.
The song is perhaps most famously performed by Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Monroe’s character, Lorelei Lee, has been followed on a Transatlantic ocean liner by a detective hired by her fiance’s father, who wants assurance that she is not marrying purely for money. He is informed of compromising pictures taken with a British diamond mine owner and cancels her letter of credit before she arrives in France, requiring her to work in a nightclub to survive. Her fiance arrives at the cabaret to see her perform this song, about exploiting men for riches. Diamonds are an element in another story line in the film, in which Lorelei is given a diamond tiara by the mine owner, in gratitude for her recovering the photographs. In a later scene, Jane Russell, who played opposite Monroe, sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in court, while pretending to be Lorelei.
Most of the song in the film is Monroe’s own voice but she needed help in two phrases – “These rocks don’t lose their shape, diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, and at the beginning with a series of high-pitched “no’s”, all of which were dubbed in by the soprano Marni Nixon.
The number was later re-shot in CinemaScope, to be used as part of a CinemaScope demonstration held on the Fox lot in March of 1953. Producer Darryl F. Zanuck told “Daily Variety” that it only took 3-1/2 hours to shoot the number in CinemaScope versus four days for the original film version. The public finally saw the CinemaScope version ten years later when it closed Fox’s documentary tribute to Marilyn, however this has not been released on DVD or VHS.
The song was listed as the 12th most important film song of all time by the American Film Institute.
Monroe’s rendition of the song has been considered an iconic performance and has since been copied by other entertainers ranging from Madonna and Kylie Minogue to Geri Halliwell and Anna Nicole Smith. Madonna’s video “Material Girl” uses a similar set and costumes for the singer and her male dancers.