Anita Loos may not be a name you are familiar with, yet she penned the book that greatly epitomises the rip-roaring twenties and influenced a major Hollywood film.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is the diary of socialite Lorelei Lee, detailing her escapades through Europe as she amuses suitors and exercises social graces. At first glance, Lorelei is a mere blonde bombshell, superficial and very naïve. Yet linger in her company and you soon find her to be a shrewd and calculating woman, superbly working the politics of the 1920s. She reminds me of her silver screen alternate, Marilyn Monroe.
Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
In the short preceding chapter, Biography of a Book, Loos likens her novel to sombre Russian works such as those by Dostoyevsky. She continues to explain that without its frivolous fun, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is “evidence of the exploitation of helpless female[s]…by predatory magnates of the Capitalistic System” (xxiii). Lorelei may make the most of her situation, yet she remains in the company of a man she finds nauseatingly dull in order to live an echo of her ideal life through the manipulation of his finances and career.
Men to her are mere accessories, similar to diamonds and handbags. This may seem a cruel observation, but men treat her in the exact same way. Loos comments further on how, if she were to write another book to parallel more modern times, the theme would be “Gentlemen Prefer Gentlemen” (xxvii).
Anita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, introduced by Jenny McPhee (New York: Liveright, 2014).