Jack Cole, Hollywood director 4

Dance · Film

On the camera crane works Jack Cole (in white sweater, click photo for detail), directing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” exactly as he did for all four GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953) dance numbers (Two Little Girls From Little Rock, Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love, When Love Goes Wrong, Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend).

“Diamonds,” an infinitely unique dance number, was Cole’s concept; the former Denishawn dancer tarted up a song-and-dance number about a gold digger considerably from its Broadway treatment (in his own words, he “made it swing”). He influenced its design (human chandeliers), costume (pink dress by Travilla), musical arrangement (working with vocal coach Hal Schaefer, who just passed away) and, oh yes, he also choreographed it.

And he directed it.

When directors do all that soup-to-nuts stuff, aren’t they worshiped as auteurs?
The film’s directorial credit, big surprise, Howard Hawks did not share.

“Hawks was not even on the set,” testified Gwen Verdon, Cole’s rehearsal assistant on the film, remembering the circumstances of the filming of the dance numbers. This fact Jane Russell also also corroborated when I met her.

A fifth Cole number, an ornate Paris-themed confection with an Eiffel Tower backdrop, was cut from the movie. Cole regularly suffered this indignity working in Hollywood.

There is no “Gentlemen” without Jack Cole’s  contribution. On a minute-by-minute basis, if you add it up, you really have to ponder who directed GPB. But never mind how long were the sequences, just consider the inverse. Think about GPB without its song-and-dance numbers. There’s no movie!  

I’ve settled on this calculation: Jack Cole directed GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, with co-direction by Howard Hawks. Take that, film historians!

I hunted down this precious photo, the version posted above is a scan of a xerox. Thus the poor quality.

p.s. George Chakiris on view in the background.

Foto courtesy: Marilyn at Twentieth Century Fox, Lawrence Crown

4 thoughts on “Jack Cole, Hollywood director

  1. Michael Falotico Dec 11,2020 4:44 pm

    Thank you so much for correcting the record. It’s a scandal that Jack Cole received no directing credit. As the article points out, the musical numbers are what make GPB a classic and, of course, the “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” number performed by Marilyn Monroe is the most iconic. Yet Jack Cole, who directed that musical number, is virtually unknown. If there were any justice, Cole would at the very least receive co-directing credit with Hawks.

  2. Michael Falotico Dec 9,2020 5:54 am

    Amen! As the author of the article says, take away the musical numbers from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and there is no movie! Jack Cole was robbed! He should receive, at the very least, co-directing credit for that film.

  3. Elizabeth Ince Dec 13,2012 9:11 am

    Not only that, but choreographers were often listed at the end of IMDB as “Miscellaneous Crew.”

  4. Larry Billman Dec 13,2012 5:08 am

    A wonderful and unseen shot illustrating how much “control” Jack had over his work. I also have to agree with the idea that if you add up the amount of minutes that the musical numbers contribute to the total film time, choreographers have at least “co-directed” so many films and never received their due. The reluctance from the Screen Director’s Guild to acknowledge this goes back to at least the 1930s and the success and recognition that Busby Berkeley received. It also eliminated “Best Dance Direction” from the Oscars and is responsible for Choreographers and Dance Directors not having a union or guild to protect and represent them. But, the bottom line for me is that dance in films will never go away: it establishes the period, location and social millieu; furthers the plot; defines the characters and their relationships; make humorous and/or tragic statements and often is the “entertainment value” within a film. If you do not agree, check out “Magic Mike,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Anna Karenina.”

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