The shocking autobiography of a 1925 bimbo cheered the wartime nights for Winston Churchill, delighted H G Wells, Lytton Strachey, James Joyce, the Prince of Wales, William Faulkner, Aldous Huxley, Mussolini and Santayana. Edith Wharton described it as ‘the great American novel at last’. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t like it, and underlined the fact by once trying to murder its authoress. A staggering success, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was translated into fourteen languages, including Russian – they took it seriously as an indictment of capitalistic decline. There was even a version for what the editor of the Review cheerfully calls ‘the poor, mad Japanese’.
On examination Anita Loo’s masterpiece turns out to contain no explicit sex at all, which must have disappointed the Japanese, although there are plenty of flabby middle-aged businessmen who, having taken a girl to dinner and a show, are reminded next morning to buy her a diamond bracelet at Tiffany’s.